April 26, 2013

Motel, neighbors vie to buy buffer zone in South Portland

Noyes Street homeowners will get the first chance to bid on the sliver of land owned by the city.

By Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – A Route 1 motel wants to buy a sliver of city-owned land so it can legally convert existing rooms there into low-cost apartments, but the city is poised to reject the offer.

20130425_Motel
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Tim Ly of MaineLy Property Management stands on the property owned by South Portland that he wants to buy.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Instead, homeowners on Noyes Street, who have long complained about the Super 8 South Portland motel and its tenants, will be offered the first chance to bid on the undeveloped land, which provides a wooded buffer zone between the motel and their backyards.

Allowing homeowners to purchase the buffer zone will ensure some measure of detente in the neighborhood, said South Portland Mayor Tom Blake.

"We want quality units, we want happy neighbors, we want cleaned-up lots," Blake said. "It's hard to give a bad boy a longer leash."

No deals have been finalized for the sale of the land, and the city is still in the process of determining a price.

The hotel complex, owned since 2008 by East Coast Hospitality Inc., consists of four buildings, two of which host about 100 motel rooms, said Jay Yetty, manager at East Coast Hospitality.

The other two buildings contain 40 rooms, 22 of which are permitted to be leased as apartments, said Tim Ly of MaineLy Property Management, the company hired to oversee the long-term rental units. To allow tenants to occupy the other 18 rooms, city density requirements require the hotel to own more land. Ly said he had planned to purchase 1.8 acres among three city-owned parcels that separate the business and the adjacent residential street.

In the four months Ly has managed the rentals, he said he has cleaned up the wooded buffer zone, improved the buildings, cleared garbage from the grounds, and met every demand the city has made, working frequently with the South Portland code enforcement officer to improve the conditions.

Still, the city has unfairly excluded him and the motel from purchasing the properties, he said.

"Our job is to better manage these buildings," Ly said. "Everything they've asked us to do, we've done."

Elliott Randall, who has lived on Noyes Street since 1979, said he's watched over the years as the motel has allowed the buffer area -- and the motel buildings -- to fall into disrepair. A rotting wooden fence has slowly fallen to the ground, he said, and trash and dog waste had littered the area. A raccoon has taken up residence in one of the apartment buildings -- although Ly said he has taken steps to evict the creature.

More aggravating than litter on the land has been the bad behavior by tenants, which usually reaches a "fever pitch" in the summer months, Randall said.

"We have never had a 'relationship' with the motel," Randall said. "To our great chagrin, it just gets worse and worse."

According to town documents, emergency personnel have responded to the motel address 37 times since the start of this year. During 2012, officers, ambulances or firefighters were called there 68 times. Calls include 911 hang-ups, warrant checks, domestic disputes, calls for people who refuse to leave, drug overdoses and loud parties.

South Portland enacted a city ordinance in September 2011 to empower the police department to levy penalties against residents or property owners who repeatedly disturb the peace. For the motel property, officers would have had to visit five or more times in a 30-day period to trigger action.

Police Chief Ed Googins said conduct at the hotel has not triggered enforcement under the problem property law, but he acknowledged the business draws a concerning number of complaints.

He attributed some of the friction to the close proximity of the living conditions there. Unlike travelers who stay for a night or two at the motel, the longterm residents must live with one another day-in and day-out.

"I clearly would not fault (the owners) for serving the need of the community," Googins said. "I'm not placing any blame here, but they may have morphed or evolved into a little different use than we've traditionally seen."

Staff Writer Matt Byrne can be contacted at: 791-6303 or at

mbyrne@mainetoday.com

 

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