ARLINGTON — City officials in Arlington are trying to close a motel they say is rife with criminal activity.
The Smokey Point Motor Inn, at 17329 Smokey Point Drive, has been a crime hot spot for years, alleges a lawsuit filed this month by the City of Arlington in Snohomish County Superior Court. The city says it has tried to work with the current and former owners, to no avail.
The conditions at the motel just east of I-5 are a “public health hazard, the continued existence of which constitutes an immediate and emergency threat to the public health, safety and welfare of others,” the city attorney wrote in court papers.
An Arlington officer wrote in court documents that police were called to the motel 253 times between Jan. 1 and the end of August; 332 times last year; and 373 times in 2019. The calls were usually related to drug activity, according to the officer. On one day late last month, for example, police were called to the motel five times.
Local hotels of similar sizes don’t need nearly the same amount of law enforcement response, Arlington police Chief Jonathan Ventura told The Daily Herald.
On April 1, Arlington police and the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office arrested 10 people who pulled into the motel’s parking lot and left shortly after, an officer wrote in court papers. They also seized some methamphetamine and heroin.
Now the city wants to put the motel in the custody of the court and likely close it for a year. The owner declined to comment.
Nearby property owners have reported vandalism, public urination and defecation and feeling intimidated and harassed by patrons of the motel. One manager at a local business said they’ve had to repair the fence next to the inn six times since April. A property manager said they had to hire someone to clean up needles daily.
“We just want it to be a livable community,” Chief Ventura said.
Arlington City Attorney Steven Peiffle wrote to the former owners in March 2020, warning them the city would seek an injunction to close the motel if the situation there didn’t improve. In September of last year, those owners sold the property to Sunlite Co. for $5.5 million, according to property records. The secretary of state’s registry of businesses lists the owner of Sunlite as Angela Yun.
Just days after the sale, Peiffle wrote to the new owner that it was their responsibility to ensure the motel was not a nuisance. In the year since that letter, the issue has not improved, according to the lawsuit.
On June 9, Arlington police served the owners 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,” Ventura wrote in the notice.
Ventura warned the owners the city would take legal action if conditions at the motel did not improve.
The owner responded the next day with a series of actions the motel would take to prevent further criminal activity on the property. She said the company would evict “illegal customers”; would no longer “take any suspicious customers who may engage in illegal activities”; had already put up fences to keep people experiencing homelessness away from the motel; and was planning to hire a security guard to be on the premises from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.
In another letter to the owners on June 18, Peiffle said the city found these suggestions to be “inadequate.” Based on conversations with police and other hotel managers, he offered over half a dozen steps the motel could take to minimize criminal activity. The suggestions included requiring identification to rent rooms, mandating rooms be rented for at least 24 hours, installing cameras to record the parking lot and common areas in the motel and requiring rooms be paid for with credit or debit cards.
The owner responded with another list of actions the motel would take to fit those guidelines. The owner said she would buy a high-quality video security system, only take credit or debit cards for initial payment and contract with a local company to tow unregistered vehicles, among other measures.
Peiffle wrote this month in court filings, however, that nothing had changed.
“Promises to change things have had no impact whatsoever,” he wrote. “In fact, they are just empty promises.”
Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; email@example.com. Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.