Mayor William Elmore broke a tie on a proposed ordinance to demolish the Downtown Motor Court.
With council members split 3-3 on the issue, Elmore agreed with J. Wesley Sills, April Gaulden and Dr. David Bradham that the city should proceed with taking down the motel at 410 S. Clinton Ave.
“It’s a tie vote and in that case the mayor has the vote to break the tie,” Elmore said. “I vote in favor of moving forward with demolition.”
Believed to be the oldest motel in Dunn, the Downtown Motor Court came under scrutiny from the city last year, causing it to be deemed unfit for human habitation in September, which gave the owner two years to get the property up to code. In October, city inspectors went into the building for a closer look and found serious plumbing and electrical issues such as open wiring and fire hazards.
“Between Oct. 6 and 9 we were able to inspect every room,” Chief Inspector Stephen King said. “A lot of things were found that were not seen in the first inspection, which prompted the condemnation of the property.”
With the building condemned, Kal Patel, the property’s owner, received 60 days to bring the motel up to code. In the past two months, Patel told council he spent $60,000 on renovation projects and asked for additional time to complete ongoing efforts to comply with city policies. Kal Patel said his father sold the property to Jay Patel in 2012 and the motel provides the current tenants with income.
“The challenges started last July with some issues with the plumbing,” said Patel. “They figured it was a small issue and they did what they could. Next thing I know in September or October we have the notice saying that it’s a lot more than just a plumbing issue. This is an old structure. When we took the flooring system out we ran into more problems than what we were anticipating.”
Since the problems with the motel proved so extensive, King said an engineer would need to draw up official designs for the renovation. The city valued the property at approximately $200,000, requiring any improvements totaling more than half of that to meet current codes and regulations. Having already spent $60,000 without yet consulting an engineer, King estimated the total repairs to well exceed that threshold.
“It’s hard for us to realize that you can get there from here,” said Councilman Chuck Turnage, who voted no to the demolition ordinance. “I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water but it is a challenge. We’ve got to do the right thing by the city and by the citizens and by the people who are traveling through to make sure they’re in a properly built structure to spend the night. If we can’t get there from here it kind of ties our hands what we can do. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road.”
Patel’s initial 60 days expired on Jan. 13 and King reported no official inspections have been requested at the site. Patel asked for an additional 45 days on Tuesday to continue working on the motel, but council declined.
King estimated the project would take at least six months if done properly.
-Dunn Daily Record