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Housing is being found for Colonial Beach motel's displaced residents; owner says he inherited building problems
BY ROBYN SIDERSKY
Housing has been found for at least some of the 36 residents of the Beachgate Inn in Colonial Beach after the discovery of fire and building code violations, which will force the motel to close in days.
Town Councilman Tim Curtin said the VFW Ladies Auxiliary is working with other area groups to fund short-term housing for two dwellings in Ebb Tide subdivision in Colonial Beach. The owner of those two houses offered discounted rent.
He said many of the people who live at the motel were "already under the umbrella of social services anyway" so he expects assistance to come from that agency and other local organizations.
Building owner Doug Simms said he was unaware of code violations with the building when he bought it five or six years ago.
He said the town "signed off" on it.
It's unclear when the building was last inspected or how often it is inspected.
Simms said town officials would not let him repair the violations room-by-room, which would enable him to move motel residents around and not oust them completely.
He said that since he's owned it, he hadn't had any problem with code violations, aside from these.
He said that if residents reported problems, he or the manager took care of them.
Simms said he was just a "victim of circumstance."
The property was determined to have fire and building code violations after after a car crashed into it last Thursday, killing a resident and causing significant damage to the building.
A town building inspector and a state fire marshal determined the motel was unsafe for occupancy.
"There is a high risk of the potential for fire due to the electrical hazards and this risk is heightened by the use of this facility for residential [sleeping] purposes," wrote state fire marshal Timothy Ritchey in an affidavit.
The violations included loose electrical connections, damaged conduits, a worn and unsecured main electrical feed into the building and electrical outlets in rooms that are wired incorrectly or are improperly grounded.
Curtin said the situation with the Beachgate Inn and its inspections has raised questions about the inspection program the town has in place. He said he intends to bring up the issue with the rest of the council.
"I have no problem saying this has to be at the top or near the top of the list of priorities," Curtin said.
On Sunday, the Town Council held an emergency meeting and authorized spending up to $4,000 to pay for fire watches on the property so motel residents could have until Jan. 3 to find other places to live.
Curtin said the council picked Jan. 3 because it will give residents time to get in touch with social services and nonprofit agencies after the holidays.
Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413