The four candidates vying to fill three seats on the Royal Oak City Commission— Sharlan Douglas, Diane Hargan, Jeremy Mahrle and David Poulton — agreed to answer five questions submitted by Patch readers, with Royal Oak Patch choosing the questions.
The City Election is Nov. 5.
Below are the answers to a question from Laura Harrison, who asked:
Royal Oak still has a half dozen outdated and dangerous motels that are havens for parole absconders. Do you have a plan on disposing the remaining?
Sharlan Douglas: As I understand it, the police are working with prosecutors to closely monitor people staying in those hotels and the city’s code enforcement department scrutinizes them closely. The city can’t seize private property and can’t afford to buy the motels, if they were even for sale. If the city had an economic development program and staff, I would suggest that they develop scenarios that might make it profitable for developers to acquire those properties, as we saw on 11 Mile Road with the development of the Market Square condominium project.
Diane Hargan: Motels serve a purpose in our city, but we want them to be a place that we would actually recommend sending a relative to. I don't think we can talk about a plan for disposing of "them". The City Commission can and should act against those businesses that fail to pay their taxes, water bills, etc. Code enforcement can issue violations when appropriate. Being old, run down, and somewhat sleazy may be undesirable but is not against the law.
Jeremy Mahrle: Having grown up in Royal Oak, I know that these motels have been an issue in our city for many years. It’s important to note that these motels can sometimes provide an important safety net for families going through a transition period, for example after suffering through a foreclosure on their home. However, we have seen some stark examples of how the motels are abused. We saw this come to a head in 2011 with the murder of a local resident by parole absconders who were staying in a Woodward motel. Our Police caught those who committed that horrible act and they are now in prison.
We have been fortunate over the years to have some of these motels closed, and I believe there to be a pending development for the motel on 11 Mile and the Sagamore Motor Lodge on Woodward, two of the remaining motels. While these motels may sometimes serve a purpose to families in need, I feel very strongly that their downside far outweighs the positive and that they negatively impact our quality of life.
Much of what could potentially be done is hampered by state and federal law. We cannot simply shut down these businesses. What we need to do is step up the efforts that the city is already engaged in – regular police sweeps and increased code enforcement – and continue to look at other ways to make it a difficult business environment for motels so that we can replace them with new, more dynamic businesses.
David Poulton: This is one of the most pressing issues we must deal with over the next four years. Right now, there is a proposal to tear down and redevelop the Sagamore on Woodward and two other motels are for sale.
My plan is to have a coordinated effort between the city and Chamber of Commerce to work with commercial realtors/developers to potentially offer tax abatements and other redevelopment opportunities in exchange for cooperation from these existing businesses. The potential is there; however, it can only be realized with hard work and effort by a variety of concerned and active advocates.
Come back tomorrow when candidates answer this question from Alex Rucinski: "How are you going to address the problems with rats throughout the city?"
- As our city's demographics continue to change with a smaller and older population (many young families move to outer ring suburbs when the kids show up) what is your 10 year vision for the city? With that vision what are your strategies and tactical ideas to get us there? Click here for answers.