Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Judge Close to Decision on Parkway Inn; Owners Fighting Town's Effort to Close It over Criminal Activity

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Judge Close to Decision on Parkway Inn; Owners Fighting Town's Effort to Close It over Criminal Activity

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski

GREEN COVE SPRINGS | A Clay County Circuit Court judge said Wednesday he will decide in the next couple days whether to shut down a crime-plagued, run-down Orange Park motel that has been the focus of contention for about 17 months.

Judge Michael Sharrit heard wildly contrasting arguments about the potential fate of the Parkway Inn, formerly known as the Rodeway Inn, during a 2 1/2-hour hearing on a petition from the Town of Orange Park to enforce its closure order against the $40-a-night extended-stay motel. For continuity during the hearing, the motel was identified as the Rodeway Inn throughout the hearing.

Orange Park Town Attorney Sam Garrison told the judge the only realistic remedy to ensure the safety of the neighboring residents and businesses as well as the community overall is to shut down the motel because everything else tried by the town's Nuisance Abatement Board has failed.

Garrison said the motel "is absolutely infested" with criminal activity as evidenced by numerous police investigations of drug deals, drug abuse and prostitution at the business for more than a year.

"It's a disease of drugs and drug-related offenses that has taken root there," Garrison said.

Citing police records, Garrison said there were 20 incidents of sale or delivery of controlled substances, 11 incidents of possession of controlled substance, one incident of prostitution and one of an active meth lab at the motel since Feb. 2, 2015, when it came under the jurisdiction of the Nuisance Abatement Board.

Dan Copeland representing motel owner Jax Inns Inc., and its operator Rick Patel, concurred the town was justified in declaring the business a public nuisance, but since then improvements have been made and are ongoing. Copeland said closing the business is unwarranted. He said Patel has been treated unjustly and unfairly by the town, and was extorted into making thousands of dollars of repairs and renovations that the board has no authority to make him do.

"It is not the rat hole that counsel [Garrison] is portraying it to be," Copeland said. Enhancements to security and other changes made by the motel have significantly reduced criminal activity at the business, he said. …

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