Ogden Bans People From Living in Hotels

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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- Ogden is prohibiting people from living in hotels or motels.

An ordinance approved by the City Council last month prohibits hotels and motels from keeping any guest for more than three months in a one-year period, if the guest has no other permanent residence.

The ordinance also prohibits new SROs, or single room occupancy. It will not affect the five existing SROs -- the Marion, Windsor, Roosevelt and Royal hotels and Adams Place Studios.

City officials contend the ban is needed because the motels are generating a high number of police calls; because they weren't designed for long-term stays, which creates health and safety issues; and to help stimulate the revitalization of downtown.

But residents of the motels fear the ordinance could render them homeless, and owners of the establishments say it could put them out of business.

Motels catering to long-term motel residents have a high number of domestic violence and drug calls, according to police.

"We're also kind of finding that the dope dealers will go cook their meth in those types of places," Police Chief Jon Greiner said.

Another problem is motels aren't required to meet the same zoning and building requirements as apartments, Planning Manager Greg Montgomery said.

Montgomery said motels can be converted into apartments, which likely would involve expanding some rooms and eliminating others.

"They may have to remodel, but that's a possibility," Montgomery said.

By limiting stays at hotels and motels and putting a cap on SROs, city officials hope to create a better mixture of residents.

"There's a direct link between the people you have living downtown and the kinds of businesses you have in your downtown," Mayor Matthew Godfrey said.

Owners of the small hotels readily admit to their heavy reliance on long-term stays.

"That is how I pay my mortgage," said Heda Imani, who owns three motels on Washington Boulevard. "None of these motels are going to survive if they (the city) do these kinds of things."

Motel operators said they evict guests who cause problems. They also said those who stay longer than three months are not likely to be involved in crime.

Imani and others said the ordinance does not prohibit someone from moving between motels every three months.

The motel owners said they would have voiced their opinions to officials, but they weren't notified of public hearings on the ordinance.

Some motels say they cater to the elderly, who enjoy the security of knowing someone is in the front office 24 hours a day. Others say The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pays many of their customers' rents.

Beyond that, the motels attract people who cannot pass credit and criminal history checks, which many apartments require, or who can't come up with security deposits on top of first and last month's rent. Room rates at most of the motels start at about $500 for a single unit.

Francisco and Lorraine Navarro, who are living at the Budget Inn, said they moved there with their three children after losing their jobs and being kicked out of their house.

"This is like getting back on your feet," Francisco Navarro said. "If they're going to pass that law, that's just going to make it hard for a lot of people."

Officials said they are unsure how strictly the new ordinance will be enforced. Greiner suggested it would be reserved for motel residents who repeatedly cause problems.

"It's just another tool to try to get them to do something different," he said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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