A change may be in the future for the James Motel

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:59

    MONROE-Monroe Police describe the James Motel like a neighborhood packed into one 24-unit building. Last year alone, Monroe police responded to 68 calls at the motel on Route 17M for such things as fights, burglaries, criminal trespass, drug sales and noise. They say that's a large number for a single location. Just last month, when officers went there to give subpoenas to witnesses following a recent baseball bat beating at the motel, police said they knocked on one door and the guy that opened it was smoking pot. "It's unnerving to read in the police blotter about the motel occupants being arrested for various crimes when I live so close to the motel and have children," said one area resident who asked to go unnamed for safety concerns. The 45-year old building that has seen its share of notoriety in recent years, including being the target of one of the largest single drug busts in the Village of Monroe. Now, though, there is a proposal - as yet solidified - to build a three-story building on the three-acre parcel. In December, Bruce Katona, director of development for Bergstol Enterprises, came before the village officials with plans to build 48-unit condominiums for persons 55-years of age and over on the motel property. The developers ran into a snag because the proposal is not a permitted use. In March, their attorneys, Jacobowitz and Gubits of Walden, filed an application for a re-zoning petition to include senior citizen dwelling as a permitted use in the General Business Zone. Chunilal Patel, who bought the property in 1982, said he has a couple of offers regarding the sale of the motel, but said he is not sure. "I am waiting for certain conditions." Patel said he leases the motel to a tenant who in turn runs the place for him. "The tenant," he said, "takes care of everything. He has to run it. I leave it to him. I can't do anything about the problems, it is in the lease. I am getting my rent money." Patel said he is trying to make it a nice motel and wanted to build a new one, but the village and he could not come to terms. Now, he said, "I cannot afford the building because of the heavy debt from the property taxes I have to pay." Patel said he pays more than $32,000 a year in taxes. The Orange County Department of Social Services places people in need of emergency housing at the motel. But, police say, most of the people who live there now have been there for quite some time. The tenants are charged $240 a week for one room. Although the motel is being used as a rooming house, it is still classified as a motel, according to the village building inspector. If they were considered apartments they would also include a kitchen and bedroom. The motel was built in 1960 before zoning laws for these types of establishments went into effect. The county did not return a phone call requesting information about their policies pertaining to emergency housing at the motel. Village officials said a letter was sent to the Orange County Board of Health a few years ago by a New Jersey couple who wrote to complain about their stay at the motel. The letter described in graphic detail the condition of the room they were required to pay for upfront. Unable to get their money back, they sat on chairs until daybreak and left.