The owner of the Scottish Inns and Amherst County officials have agreed on a rehabilitation plan that calls for occupants of the Madison Heights motel to vacate in 30 days and for the building to be demolished.
The Amherst County Board of Supervisors voted Nov. 5 to authorize County Administrator Dean Rodgers to sign the agreement with Satya Narayan, of Narayan Properties, LLC, the site’s owner. In September, county officials sent Narayan a notice of a preliminary determination the property at 4512 South Amherst Highway is considered spot blight following a detailed investigation in the summer.
The preliminary determination was due to the site’s failure to pass property maintenance inspections, its significant health code and zoning violations and more than 100 calls for law enforcement and emergency services at the site in the past year, according to the county. The county found occupants were exceeding the limit for residing there and an unauthorized daycare was on-site, which Narayan has disputed.
Under the agreement, all guests will be given notice to vacate within 30 days from Nov. 6 and no new guests will be permitted. The site will be secured to prevent trespassers, the owner has 45 days to turn in county and health department-issued licenses to operate the business and has 210 days to obtain a demolition permit. Once that permit is secured, Narayan has 60 days to demolish the structure, the plan states.
Rodgers recently was prepared to ask supervisors to enact a spot blight ordinance that would trigger a series of events in which the county takes control of the property and moves forward with demolishing the building. After negotiating with David Hawkins, an attorney representing Narayan, Rodgers recommended going ahead with the agreement.
“Either we go forward with the board declaring blight and then the county taking control of the site, paying for demolition and so forth, or we go forward with the agreement and we allow the owner to incur those expenses,” Rodgers said to supervisors. “We can still declare blight at a later time and move forward with demolition under our own financial means if the board chooses to do that.”
Rodgers has said the motel is a source of complaints from nearby property owners, has depressed property values and has failed inspections for years.
Hawkins said in a phone interview his client wants to come to a positive resolution with the county rather than battling it out in court.
“We’re excited about it,” Hawkins said of tearing the structure down and building anew. “It’s something that was going to happen anyway. We don’t want to fight it because it’s something we want to see happen.”
In a Sept. 24 letter to Rodgers, Hawkins wrote his client building a new motel would benefit the county.
“Nothing happens overnight,” Hawkins wrote of constructing a new facility. “We need time to obtain financing and approval from all necessary entities.”
Hawkins said he doesn’t know how many occupants would be displaced. While they don’t agree with the county’s “allegations,” Narayan is committed to making the site better, Hawkins said.
“He’s looking forward to making improvements out there,” Hawkins said.
When asked what Narayan doesn’t agree with, Hawkins declined to go into detail and said he didn’t want to debate with county officials. The case is unusual among those he has worked on, he said. “This is a new one for me,” Hawkins said.
Supervisors included a condition in approving the agreement that Rodgers immediately notify them if Narayan isn’t adhering to the requirements.
“I just know the history of this place,” Amherst County Board of Supervisors chairman Jimmy Ayers said.
Ayers said there have been few times in the past Narayan has followed through with what he said he would do in a timely fashion, and he wants “as much teeth in the game as we can get” in working out the concerns.
“It’s usually something that gets in the path, blocks it, prevents it and we’re back to the same situation again and the county is starting over again in another process to try to deal with this,” Ayers said of previous frustrations.
Supervisor Claudia Tucker expressed skepticism the plan would come to fruition apart from the county’s intervention. “It’s not going to happen. I’m sorry,” she said. “We’re going to be right back here again.”
Rodgers said the agreement is written in a way that will help the county’s position if the matter heads to court. When asked by a supervisor of the financial effect of the county taking over the site, Rodgers said the county would pay for a professional appraisal.
The county would inspect the property when it’s vacated of occupants, Rodgers said.
In a news release issued by the county shortly after the board's Nov. 5 vote, Nathan Young, the county’s chief building inspector, described the rehabilitation plan as beneficial.
“Today’s agreement is a product of months of cooperation between the [motel] owners and multiple county agencies working together toward the health, safety, and welfare of Amherst County.”
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.