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Another Death Comes to Light as 8 Wood Appeal Process Moves Forward

GallowayCollensTOPsunsetREVISEDAnother Death Comes to HowesLocationLight as 8 Wood Appeal Process Moves Forward

(Crystal A. Proxmire, May 10, 2016)

Ferndale, MI – Ferndale City Council has affirmed their decision to deny a business license to Kim Patel of the 8 Wood Motel at 330 W. 8 Mile, citing issues of crime and deeming the motel to be a nuisance.

The appeal hearing took place Tuesday, with a unanimous decision by City Council (minus Councilperson Dan Martin who was not present). The original denial took place March 15. The motel remains open while the matter goes through the appeal process.

Police Chief Timothy Collins and an undercover officer from the Oakland County Narcotics Enforcement Team testified about crime that had taken place at the 8 Wood.  Their testimony Schrock2015_SmilingFace_adincluded the incidents that prompted the Chief to recommend denial of the license, and calls to the property that have happened since, including an allegation of sexual assault in one of the rooms, an allegation of an assault, and a fatal overdose.

The undercover officer testified that on March 11, 2016 there was a felonious assault report where three men got a room and one of the men found that his prescription medicine was missing.  The other two men then assaulted the victim.  The victim escaped from the room and asked the clerk to call the police. According to Chief Collins the man was able to retrieve his cell phone and call 911.  Police checked the phone records to 911 and the records from 8 Wood and found that the motel staff had not honored the victim’s request for them to call police.

There was also a fatal overdose on April 15, 2016 where a woman was found dead with heroin on the nightstand.j and d ad

The fatal overdose that started the City’s look at the 8 Wood Motel (and also the nearby Motorama Motel) happened on April 20, 2015 when a man died after taking Fentanyl that had been purchased at the 8 Wood Motel.

On May 6, 2015 the Oakland County Narcotics Enforcement Taskforce watched as over 60 drug sales took place over the course of a day.  The investigation ultimately led to at least three arrests on charges of operating a criminal enterprise and delivery of heroin and crack according to testimony by Chief Collins.

City Council also heard from the building inspector and the fire chief in regards to violations.

Attorney Rick Patterson, representing 8 Wood, questioned whether the police reports were enough to label the motel a nuisance.  He presented 25 calls for service in 2013, 27 calls for service in 2014, and 14 in 2015, noting that the number decreased in the last year.  He also ran through the calls for 2015. Six calls were for customer complaints, three were for suspicious Chamber_AD2_rainbowrunperson calls where nothing was found to be wrong and one appears to be a wrong address.  This leaves four reports with criminal behavior.  One was an armed robbery, one was a domestic violence call that resulted in a drunk driving arrest, one was the fatal Fentanyl overdose, and one report was assisting the NET Team with their day of surveillance where over 60 drug sales were observed.

Patterson also asked Police Chief Collins if he was familiar with a report called “Catalyzing the Corridor,” which was a 2013 capstone project by students from the University of Michigan’s Urban Planning program. The students worked with 8 Mile Boulevard Association to come up with a framework for evaluating properties under consideration for a revitalization program.  The project included four sample properties for the students to evaluate, one of which was Motorama.  8 Wood was not included in that project.  Chief Collins said that he did not become aware of the report until the court case for Motorama, and that he has not read it.  “I had not seen it and it did not factor into my decision,” he said.

Patterson also argued that residents have a right to privacy once they rent a room, and stated that courts have ruled that crime is not foreseeable.GT ad 06

But ultimately City Council stuck with their prior decision.

“A nuisance, to me, is a threat to the safety and quality of life to the people in that neighborhood,” said Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter, who was disappointed that 8 Wood had not taken any proactive steps apart from installing cameras, to screen customers better or prevent crime.

“[There have been] Three felonies in the last month and a half since you’ve been on notice,” Mayor Coulter said.  “Those people that are dying and overdosing in your establishment are our responsibility, and your responsibility.”

Councilperson Raylon Leaks-May said “I came here hoping to have heard something, anything, that would help me change my opinion, but have not.”

Councilperson Melanie Piana said that the motel had “management by enforcement rather garden16_monte_albertthan management by the owner,” which echoed a sentiment shared earlier by Chief Collins when asked what he expected Patel to do in order to deter crime: “It’s not my chosen profession to run a hotel.”

Councilperson Greg Pawlica shared his reasons for voting to uphold the denial.  “I believe the average business person, having these issues presented to them, would have made immediate changes to their business to help avoid these events occurring in the future.  To have a [alleged] rape AND a drug overdose resulting in a woman’s death within a month of Council’s license denial does not show me that management at the business is interested in improving the safety and security of their property.” He said.

“Continuing to maintain an environment that draws members of the community who engage and participate in illicit and illegal activity  – to me – is the equivalent to saying to customers “Your safety is not my concern” when being handed the keys to a room.  The reality is that the police aren’t called to document every incident that occurs at this business, and to believe that criminal activity is only occurring when the police are called is preposterous.  AND to imply UrbaneAd_04that 60 drug deals in a day is the equivalent to one report is basically saying that a 60 car pile-up on the freeway is just one accident.

“Yes, the death last year was a slap on the face that got the city’s attention.  However, to have experienced another death nearly one year later, shows me that appropriate improvements have not been made.”

It is likely that Patel will appeal and that the matter will be heard in Oakland County Circuit Court.

The City of Ferndale is currently in a similar appeal process with the owner of Motorama. The next hearing for that case will be June 1, 2016.

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