Sunnyside City Council on Monday revoked the Townhouse Motel’s operating licence due to concerns over living conditions and safety.
City staff recommended that the license be revoked. At a meeting earlier this month, the committee reviewed irregularities and substandard room conditions identified in 2019. 16 Improvements found, some work to do. The council also considered public comments from local business owners who said motel residents engaged in criminal activity, including theft and drug trafficking.
The motel’s owners, Helen and Fred King, said they had taken steps to fix the problem, including renovating the rooms, enhancing security and evicting some long-term tenants, all of whom are due to move out by the end of the month.
Their long-term goal, they said, is to become more family-friendly and reduce police calls.
Sunnyside City Council voted 5-2 to revoke the business license of the townhouse motel. Mayor Dean Broersma, Deputy Mayor Jim Restucci and council members Martin Beeler, Vicki Ripley and Mike Farmer voted to revoke the business license. Council members Julia Hart and Craig Hicks opposed the revocation.
Council members expressed concerns about the condition of the room when they first inspected it in 2019. Broersma praised the business owners for their work on renovating the rooms, but questioned why they deteriorated in the first place.
“The fact that the city is coming to tell you that it needs fixing worries me,” Broersma said of the mold issue at the 2019 inspection. “It was an unhealthy living environment.”
Owners can reapply for permits after making changes, he said.
City inspection in September. 16 people said rooms that were substandard in 2019 are now in good condition, but rooms that were recently vacated were badly damaged. City staff cited several issues with the crawl space beneath the townhouse motel, which they said could be resolved in a short period of time.
Hicks urged the city council to allow the Kims to keep their business license subject to the changes being implemented.
“There’s a history here that needs to be broken,” Hicks said.
Broersma is also concerned about the alleged drug sale at the hotel.IOn September 1, the first hearing to revoke the business license. On December 12, Sunnyside Police Chief Al Escalera said there had been “major criminal activity” at the motel.
Some community members said criminal activity was a bigger problem for Sunnyside to address.
“It just happens to be a part of town that’s popular with those who do (criminal activity),” Fredkin said. “That’s the problem we’re having right now in Sunnyside itself.”
At the first hearing on the townhouse motel business license on September 9. On the 12th, Fred King said that the culprit of the criminal activity was the trespasser, not the person staying at the hotel. Helen King said they were putting up a fence to increase security and deter trespassing.
“We did our best. We didn’t just sit there and let it happen. We fought for it,” Helen King said. “I will do my best to follow the rules.”
Elizabeth Gates, a Sunnyside resident and mother of one of the motel residents, said she was disappointed by the council. She said Sunnyside was facing a housing and crime crisis and revoking the Townhouse Motel’s licence was not the answer.
“The city doesn’t have enough low-income housing,” Gates said. “My daughter is a psychopath, not a troublemaker. We haven’t been able to find another place in Sunnyside, we’ve been trying for years.”
Broersma said in closing remarks that he did not take the revocation lightly and that Kim could reapply for a business license in the near future if they made repairs and ensured the tenants were not breaking the law.
“It’s not forever. It’s not like we’re trying to drive you out of town by rail,” Brolsma said. “We’re not doing this for cruelty. It’s also painful for us. We don’t want to see someone lose their livelihood.”