'You better clean it up': East Ridge residents voice opinions as the Waverly Motel reopens 'with restrictions'

A "Notice of Violation" sign hangs on the door of a room at the Waverly Motel on Friday, May 10, 2019, in East Ridge, Tenn. The motel has been shut down by the city of East Ridge for 30 days for numerous code violations.

With a room full of unhappy East Ridge residents, owners of the Waverly Motel were once again before the city's housing commission.

This time it was to provide an update on the laundry list of repairs given to motel, located at 1503 McDonald Road, owners by commissioners during an emergency meeting last week.

The meeting was sparked by a call to police that revealed "unsanitary conditions" and a number of "serious" city and Tennessee state code violations, ranging from faulty or missing smoke detectors and expired fire extinguishers to electrical and plumbing problems.

Since then, Rob Carden, the motel's attorney, said management has made those repairs in most rooms. They also added security cameras, bringing their total up to 11 continuously recording cameras, he said. The owners, among them Roshan Patel, did not respond to the crowd.

Hamilton County Department of Health officials reinspected the property and, with a score of 81, said they had "no objection" to the motel continuing to operate with the exception of two rooms they say are still not up to par and a "small roach infestation in three rooms."

Additionally, Carden gave commissioners a list of rules they plan to implement.

Previously, people had been known to rent rooms for weeks on end, despite it not being an extended-stay motel, commissioners have said. But now, Carden said, there is a one-week limit per person. And that applies to all occupants, meaning groups can no longer check in under one person for a week and then circulate the registration among their group while keeping the room.

So how will they enforce that? Carden said management will start asking for valid state identification of all occupants, not just from the paying guest.

They're also limiting occupancy to only four people and guests will not be allowed to bar management from entering the rooms.

"These are the rules of the motel. If you don't like them, you don't have to stay there," Carden said. " There was obvious neglect and there was a general lack of proactivity as it related to safety. This is a wake-up call."

But residents did not buy it.

"We want an end to the Waverly," Randy Sewell, who lives a block away from the motel.

He cited the numerous 911 calls over the years.

"That's a taxpayer expense," Sewell said. "Figure, maybe they spend an hour there. Two officers there. Do the math. That's a lot of money that taxpayers are having to spend to have to police a location that the owners fail to do."

Several others stood up to voice their opinions on the property.

Judy Karr, who's lived in the area for 25 years, said she isn't convinced that more security cameras will help.

"Cameras are great after the fact," she said. "You've got a video of what took place. Is someone going to monitor those cameras 24/7? That is the only way the camera is going to prevent anything from happening."

Vicky Walden said she watches people come and go from the motel on foot, wandering the neighborhood.

"When they get put out of the motel 'cause they got no money, guess where they go? Right across the state line to the tree line," she said, the people in the crowd responding, "Yup."

Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of reopening the motel with the exception of the two rooms that were not ready.

"I want to see you guys succeed," Commissioner Lynda Stephens said. "I want you to clean that place up."

Carden and the motel's owners are to return before the housing commission on June 10 for another follow-up. They declined to comment after the meeting.

Walden thanked commissioners for taking the issue seriously.

"You've at least woke 'em up," she said. "Whether they make the change or not, now it's going be up to them. And I want them to know, we're all watching you. And you better clean it up. We're tired of it. We're sick of finding needles on the side of the road."

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at [email protected] or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.