Public Safety Committee advances public nuisance ordinance targeting troubled hotels

city hallThe Metro Council Public Safety Committee voted unanimously on Monday to advance an amendment to Louisville’s public nuisance ordinance, creating a new mechanism for city officials to crack down on hotels that are the location of frequent criminal activity.

The amendment would allow the city Codes & Regulations department to close a hotel if on at least five occasions per 100 rooms, within a 60-day period, a person was cited or arrested for certain crimes on its premises, and the hotel’s owners had not fully abated the issue.

The amendment was altered several times from its original form after the Greater Louisville Hotel and Lodging Association raised concerns that the ordinance would affect too many hotels; the updated version adds the threshold on the number of criminal citations, along with factoring in the size of the hotel. The sponsor of the legislation, Councilman Steve Magre, D-10, said in Monday’s meeting that the changes were made in “an informal work group” including an association official and city attorneys, and GLHLA sent a letter to council on Monday endorsing the amendment in that form.

According to Louisville Metro Police Department arrest records for 14 hotels provided to Magre, the proposed change only seems likely to have a chance of affecting two hotels: America’s Best Value Inn on Kemmons Drive and the Economy Inn on Bardstown Road — both of which are in Magre’s district, the latter receiving a good deal of press in recent years due to the presence of criminal activity there. From the beginning of this year to the end of August, LMPD records show 131 arrests at the Economy Inn, averaging 33 arrests over the 60-day timeframe of the ordinance. America’s Best Value Inn came in a close second with 116 arrests, though the next hotel had far fewer, with only 17.

Attorneys for the Economy Inn have warned Metro Council that they may sue the city if the ordinance is passed, claiming it is specifically designed to target and shut down the motel, and that Councilman Magre has an unnamed “private agenda” to do so.

The full Metro Council is set to vote on the amendment on Thursday night.

(A previous version of this story said that the city health department could order the closure of a hotel under this ordinance, but that department is only involved if there is a meth lab discovered.)