Limits on Motel Stays Are Sought

In an effort to rid the city of drug labs and other criminal activity, officials are considering an ordinance that would limit hotel and motel guests to 30-day stays.

Police officials who presented the proposal to the City Council on Monday said that a months-long neighborhood improvement project convinced them such a law is needed.

When a task force of city officials canvassed the neighborhoods, police said, they discovered that drug dealers and other criminals frequently live and work out of low-rate motels.

An investigation at one motel found a tenant who had been in the same room for eight years, said Thomas E. Lynch, director of development services for the city.

The law would allow hotel and motel owners to apply for conditional-use permits if they typically rent rooms for longer than a month.

Council members said they generally approved of the proposal but had some reservations about requirements for the use permit. Only hotels with more than 75 rooms, maid service, safe deposit boxes and other conditions would qualify, according to the draft.

About half of the city's 30 hotels and motels would meet those criteria, Police Capt. Gary Hicken said.

Councilman Donald L. Bone said he was concerned about homeless people who use motels for lengthy periods and motel owners who could not meet the criteria for a conditional-use permit.

"I submit that not all poor people are criminals," Bone said.

Mayor Patsy Marshall joined other council members who supported the ordinance to protect tourists who might unwittingly check into motels being used by prostitutes and drug dealers.

Police and other officials agreed to meet with hotel and motel owners before revising the proposal. Hicken said that owners of larger hotels support the measure. But council members said they want to hear from smaller businesses too.

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