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Plan would convert city motel into offices

April 18, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN

A Frederick, Md., company plans to buy the Holiday Motel - which has $2,400 in outstanding rental code violations - and turn it into business offices.

The company, CHS, will convert the building at West Washington and North Prospect streets into "professional office condominiums" and sell them, according to its Web site.

The current owners of the motel have until Monday to pay $2,400 in fines for allegedly violating Hagerstown's rental ordinance.

John Lestitian, Hagerstown's chief code compliance officer, said each of the owners - Leela B. Patel and Babubhai Patel - was cited on April 4 for two violations stemming from an apartment they leased.

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The first violation, allowing someone to occupy a room without a working smoke alarm, carries a penalty of $1,000. The second, allowing someone to occupy a room that doesn't meet a square-footage requirement, carries a $200 fine.

The city issued two copies of the violations because "we hold them both equally accountable," Lestitian said.

Babubhai Patel didn't return a phone message left at the motel Monday afternoon.

Andrew Wilkinson, a Hagerstown attorney representing the motel, also didn't return a phone message Monday afternoon.

The city's Office of Code Compliance has said it found numerous violations at the motel during an October 2005 surprise inspection.

The problems included vermin, mold, heating, lighting and ventilation, according to a Nov. 1, 2005, report that prohibited the Patels from renting any vacant motel rooms or apartments.

An inspection report indicates that the building has 35 motel rooms, including an office, and 15 apartments.

The Washington County Health Department found mold and mildew violations during the same surprise inspection.

In February, the health department reinspected the building and reported that the Patels, through various improvements, had fixed the last of the problems it had cited.

Lestitian said Monday that the city met with the Patels and Wilkinson last week to reiterate the city's prohibition against renting vacant rooms and its order to fix the alleged violations.

"Mr. Patel has taken some steps to comply in some rooms," Lestitian said. "However, I would say that is minimal."

Although there seem to be other violations, the city would rather not "stack" additional citations upon the Patels, he said.

If other violations surface, the city would seek a warrant to examine apartment rental records, Lestitian said.

The Patels have until Wednesday to request a trial.

If the fines are not paid by Monday, they will double to $2,400, Lestitian said. If they aren't paid for another 15 days, the city may refer the matter to Washington County District Court.

Although state property records do not indicate that the motel building has changed hands yet, CHS, on its Web site, is announcing that the company will begin renovating the Holiday Motel building "in the coming months."

"Office condominiums will range from 1,000 to 2,400 square feet," the Web site says.

CHS owner Skip Tovornik wasn't available for comment Monday.

Tovornik is quoted on the Web site as saying the renovation "will help West Washington Street to regain its former reputation as Hagerstown's 'Wall Street.'"

The Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation Web site says the Patels bought the property from Michael A. Massih in 1986 for $565,000.

"My goal is to help return downtown and adjoining Prospect Street to the district it once was," Tovornik says on the Web site. "It was once known for some of the most beautiful architecture in the region."

The Web site says it is selling condominiums at 37 S. Prospect St. for $195,000 to $350,000. The property is called Mount Prospect.

CHS, under the name 37 S. Prospect Development LLC, bought the property from Ron L. Coultas in December 2005 for $600,000, according to the Department of Assessments and Taxation Web site.

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