Northland News

Neighborhood leaders applaud

Two problem motels closed on North Side of Columbus

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City officials rolled up the Red Carpet last week, shutting down yet another crime-plagued motel near the intersection of Interstate 71 and East Dublin-Granville Road.

Word that a temporary restraining order had been issued against the owners of the Red Carpet Inn, 1289 E. Dublin-Granville Road, came out right after a visiting judge declared that the nearby Columbus Inn and Suites was a public nuisance and ordered that it remain closed for another year.

City officials closed down Columbus Inn and Suites, 6121 Zumstein Drive, on June 12, 2013.

A COTA bus was parked outside the Red Carpet Inn last week to keep the residents who had to evacuate the place warm while they looked for other accommodations, according to Dave Cooper, president of the Northland Area Business Association. Maryhaven and other social service agencies provided assistance in relocating displaced motel residents.

Cooper and other community leaders applauded actions taken by city officials to rid the neighborhood of nuisance properties such as Red Carpet Inn and Columbus Inn and Suites.

"We're making a concerted effort to target problem hotels," City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. said in a statement. "Building cases takes time, but I want the public to know that these public nuisances are a top priority of ours."

They should be, Northland Community Council President Emmanuel V. Remy said.

"They are just a breeding ground for crime," he stated.

"I'm in favor of what they're doing," said Cooper, whose predecessor as NABA president, Mohammad Ashraf, and his wife, Umtal, own Columbus Inn and Suites.

Only the day before the Red Carpet Inn was ordered closed, Judge Teresa L. Liston ruled in favor of the city in a complaint against the Ashrafs for running an establishment that "had been fraught with significant problems since at least 2011," according to a City Attorney's Office press release.

In her decision, Liston wrote that the Ashrafs "are guilty of maintaining a nuisance in violation of the law."

"It was everything we asked for," Assistant City Attorney William A. Sperlazza said of the ruling. "We feel it is absolutely the appropriate ruling under the law. It's a good ruling for the city, it's a good ruling for the businesses in that area and it's a good ruling for the residents who live in that area."

As for the Red Carpet Inn, Sperlazza said a hearing was scheduled for this week to determine future steps regarding the property. It is valued at $1.5 million and was purchased on Aug. 20, 2013, for $973,750 by Sunstar Columbus Inc. of Addison, Ill., according to the Franklin County Auditor's Office website.

"The evidence suggests thus far that the Red Carpet Inn is one of the worst hotels in the area in terms of drugs and prostitution," Sperlazza said.

The Columbus Division of Police logged 358 calls for service to the motel in 2013 alone, he said.

"That certainly ranks it as one of the highest hotels in that measure," Sperlazza said. "That's significant. That's a strain on Columbus police resources."

The closing of the Red Carpet Inn, coupled with the long-term shuttering of Columbus Inn and Suites, will serve to make the area safer because patrol officers won't be tied up dealing with calls and complaints involving the motels, he added.

Sperlazza singled out Brandon L. Boos, secretary of the Northland Community Council and vice president of the Salem Civic Association, for his willingness to testify on behalf of the city in the complaint against the Ashrafs.

"We're lucky to have people like Brandon who are willing to step up," Sperlazza said.

"We've known for a long time that the issues with crime in the Northland area ... have been from all the multifamily housing and motels that have gone away from the right way to do business," Remy said. "I cannot tell you how pleased I am with the liaison officers we have in the Northland area who have really spearheaded the drive to get these places out of the Northland area."

Remy was referring to officers Scott Clinger and Larry Geis, who helped organize representatives from various city and state departments in inspecting the problem motels at I-71 and state Route 161.

"This is not a victory, but it's absolutely a step in the right direction," Remy added.

"We simply will not put up with it," said William Logan, coordinator of the Northland Area Code Task Force. "If we have to have them shut down, we will do that. The decision is up to the business owners in how they do business. The community will take care of itself to see that our standards are met."

"If they can't run the business in a legal manner, we don't want them there," Cooper said.

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