Carson City Board of Supervisors to consider options for extended stay motels
June 15, 2017
CARSON CITY — Addressing Carson City's rundown residential motels is proving harder than expected.
So next month the Board of Supervisors will start considering options for further cracking down on the businesses, Carson City officials say.
In 2016, the board decided to look at beefing up code enforcement of extended stay motels in order to make them safer, cleaner and less of a blight.
Starting in October, a team consisting of code enforcement officers and inspectors from the building, fire and health departments, with the Sheriff's Office on standby, have inspected four motels. All the properties are on Carson Street, where there are a total of 13 extended-stay residences.
Each business had multiple issues, some requiring immediate action. Rooms without heat or water, missing smoke detectors, exposed or overloaded electrical wiring, stairs in dangerous disrepair. Ten residents were moved because of safety and sanitation concerns.
Each property is given a comprehensive report with work to be done before follow up inspections two weeks and 30 days later.
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"On re-inspection, we're finding the same issues," said Kelli Nevills, compliance officer. "We can't close them out."
One business has been cited for code violations, which is a misdemeanor, and is going to court. Another is compliant inside the building but still has weeds and other blight outside.
"It's as good as the owner thinks it's going to get," said Nevills.
A third is in process awaiting its 30-day re-inspection and the fourth just completed a two-week review.
"The showers need replacement in every room," said Nevills.
The process is time-consuming. Each inspection takes two to three hours and then there are re-inspections. The city is focusing on Carson Street, but has only been able to inspect four motels in seven months, and all of those are still in process with no immediate end in sight.
The silver lining has been a drop in law enforcement calls. The managers and tenants receive 30-day notice of inspections, leading some tenants engaging in illegal activities to vacate. Others leave when it becomes clear the properties are going to be repeatedly inspected.
One motel averaged 39 calls to the Sheriff's Office in a 30-day period and that's dropped to five calls. At another site calls have been reduced by about 40 percent, said Nevills.
Certainly not all the tenants are breaking the law.
"There's a wide range of tenants. Some are elderly folks, some are bona fide transients who for whatever reason are between permanent locations. A lot have mental health issues that are not criminal. It's a whole cross section," said Nick Marano, city manager.
Each are paying an average of $400-$600 a month for a motel room without a kitchen, which they try to turn into a home.
"A big issue is hot plates, power strip cords that can't handle it. We've seen all kinds of crazy wiring," said Nevills.
So the city wants to put more teeth in its enforcement policies, said Marano at a recent supervisors meeting.
"One option is to change the transient occupancy tax," said Lee Plemel, director, community development.
Currently, lodging properties pay the tax on stays under 28 days so the extended stay motels avoid that by renting rooms on a 30-day basis. The tax could be revised so all properties pay it on all lengths of stay.
Another is to make the motels comply with code for apartments, which has many more requirements, although the code for lodging business has many requirements, such as daily cleaning, the extended stay motels are not meeting now.
Or the city could begin to revoke business licenses so the properties can no longer operate.
"A route Reno has gone down is to seek abatement of chronic nuisances," said Marano. "There are a number of ways the board could go."