Judge: Motel owners rights’ were not trampled

Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 5/9/18

A federal judge ruled in favor of the Town of Orange Park citing that it acted legally when it closed Parkway Inn in 2016.

U.S. District Judge Brian J. Davis ruled that the town gave the motel’s …

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Judge: Motel owners rights’ were not trampled

Posted

A federal judge ruled in favor of the Town of Orange Park citing that it acted legally when it closed Parkway Inn in 2016.

U.S. District Judge Brian J. Davis ruled that the town gave the motel’s owner and manager their due process rights and acted without discrimination toward the establishment.

Parkway Inn, located at the northern edge of Orange Park, was considered a public nuisance by the town before it was ordered to close after repeated calls for meth labs, prostitution, marginal living conditions and even a late 2012 murder. In 2016, the Orange Park Police Department received over 750 calls to the motel’s premises, according to Police Chief Gary Goble.

“It was taxing our services – that’s the only place in town that we responded that many times to types of crimes,” Goble said in a previous interview.

Beyond the crimes, the living conditions at Parkway Inn were not suitable for anyone living under its roof. Courtney Bishop, a former resident of the motel, said the rooms had black mold, roaches and faulty plumbing.

“I don’t miss anything about that hotel,” Bishop said. “The staff, the people they had working there, the people that lived there, the nastiness of the hotel, yeah, I don’t miss any bit of it.”

“There’s not a good thing to say about it other than I had a roof over my head,” Bishop told Clay Today.

In the midst of the motel’s numerous complaints, Orange Park Town Council created a Nuisance Abatement Board, which was tasked with fielding any and all reports of the nature found at the motel. This board and the Town of Orange Park ruled that the motel be closed and after a ruling from Circuit Judge Mike Sharrit, was ordered to be closed by July 1, 2016. It was, however, granted the ability to reopen if the motel was able to cure its public safety issues caused by the prevalent pop-up meth labs, prostitution rings and fire hazards.

In the days leading up to July 1, 2016, though, Parkway Inn gave every indication that they were not going to close. That’s because Parkway Inn, through their attorney, Daniel Copeland, filed a lawsuit against the town in U.S. District Court seeking junctive relief from Judge Sharrit’s order.

This lawsuit claims that the town’s treatment of the motel was “malicious and in bad faith,” which caused “irreplaceable harm to Jax Inn’s [motel owner]” and therefore violated their right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Clay Today previously reported.

The federal lawsuit hoped to prohibit the town from closing the motel and requested monetary relief in an amount exceeding $75,000.

At the time, Town Attorney Sam Garrison said he didn’t believe there was any legal basis for this lawsuit.

Now, two years later, it seems Garrison was correct in his belief as U.S. District Judge Brian J. Davis ruled that the town granted the Parkway Inn owner and its manager, Jax Inns Inc. and Rachee Inc. respectively, their due process rights, contrary to what the lawsuit Parkway Inn filed stated.

With this ruling, the motel’s lawsuit was put to rest thus ending the two-year conflict between Parkway Inn and the Town of Orange Park.

In the past five months, the former motel site has been being cleared for the construction of a new Wawa convenience store.

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