The Smokey Point Motor Inn on Sept. 21, 2021 in Arlington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

The Smokey Point Motor Inn on Sept. 21, 2021 in Arlington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Arlington motel to stay open despite crime concerns

Police responded to the Smokey Point Motor Inn over 300 times in 2020. In the first six months of this year, that was down to 62.

ARLINGTON — The city has abandoned its push to close the Smokey Point Motor Inn, acknowledging calls for police service have decreased.

In court filings for an injunction last year, the city attorney wrote that conditions at the motel just east of I-5 were a “public health hazard, the continued existence of which constitutes an immediate and emergency threat to the public health, safety and welfare of others.”

Nearby property owners reported vandalism, public urination and defecation as well as feeling intimidated and harassed by motel patrons. One manager at a local business said they had to repair the fence next to the inn six times in the span of a few months. A property manager reported having to hire someone to clean up needles daily.

In June of last year, Arlington police served the owners of the motel at 17329 Smokey Point Drive with a notice that the property was violating city code.

“Units within the building are being used for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, delivering, selling, storing, or giving away any controlled substance,” Chief Jonathan Ventura wrote in the notice.

The city said it tried to work with the owners, Sunlite Co., which bought the property for $5.5 million in 2020. But there was little improvement.

Officers were called to the motel 253 times between Jan. 1 and the end of August 2021; 332 times in 2020; and 373 times the year before, according to police. The calls were usually related to drug activity. On one day in August 2021, for example, police were called to the motel five times.

In an injunction filed in Snohomish County Superior Court, the city pushed to put the motel in the custody of the court and likely close it for a year.

But calls to the property have since decreased due, in part, to recent changes in state law and changes made by the motel’s owner, according to the city.

Through June of this year, police had only responded to 62 incidents in the motel. This is in line with other motels in the area, Ventura said in an email last week.

In court papers last month, city attorney Steven Peiffle noted “substantial staffing shortages” at the police department have affected the monitoring of the motel. And a state Supreme Court erasing the felony drug possession statute meant police were called to the motel less frequently. He also wrote that legislative reform restricting police pursuits has affected this, too.

“We determined the best course of action from a legal standpoint would be to dismiss the case and continue to monitor, to the extent feasible within the law, activity at the property,” Peiffle told The Daily Herald.

In a statement, the motel owner’s attorney E. Chan Lee called the lawsuit’s dismissal a testament to his client’s hard work. The secretary of state’s registry of businesses lists the owner of Sunlite as Angela Yun.

“No one is claiming that the work is done, but Mrs. Yun is continuing her efforts to improve the safety and quality of the Smokey Point Motor Inn and hopes to continue working collaboratively with the City to do so,” he said.

Lee said Yun didn’t know about the motel’s history of crime when she bought it in 2020. And “significant language barriers” hampered her ability to understand the situation.

“We as her attorneys are frankly proud of Mrs. Yun, who has risen to the challenge of fixing the issues she inherited from the previous owner and who is continuing to take proactive measures to stifle the occurrence of such issues going forward,” the attorney said. “Smokey Point Motor Inn is a proud and contributing member of the Arlington business community and hopes to be a pride of Arlington someday.”

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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