Utica Council member wants to allow new owner of Davis Motel to re-open, but with a stipulation
UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Davis Motel on Herkimer Road in North Utica was the sight of a brutal murder a year and a half ago. Then owner of the Davis Motel, 68 year old Linda Turner was killed in her office in November, 2011. Now a new owner wants to reopen it, but Utica Common Council Member At Large Jim Zecca says not so fast. Zecca says the new owner, Oneida Housing, Inc. has applied for a zoning variance to be able to re-open the motel section of the property. Since the motel has been closed for longer than six months, the zoning of the property reverts back to its prior usage, in this case, residential. The hearing on the zoning variance is set for May 14th, but Zecca is trying to pass a resolution through Common Council before then, to put a stipulation in the variance. Zecca wants the new owner to put in writing that he will refuse to accept vouchers from Oneida County for those people who are homeless sex offenders. He says the county cannot, under state law, notify the motels of the status of the homeless people they give vouchers to, and that puts people who stay in these establishments in danger, as well as residents who live near them. When you get off the Thruway in Utica, there are some relatively inexpensive motels right off the exit. Because these motels are so inexpensive, Oneida County, at times when area shelters are full, calls up the motels to see if they will accept a voucher for a homeless person who has applied for assistance. Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente says some of the homeless people offered vouchers are convicted sex offenders, "We are not allowed to discriminate or inform the public, or in this case the hotels, of the status of these individuals." Picente says using motels to place anyone who is homeless is a last resort, but because of the lack of beds in area shelters, in many cases, it is the county's only option to house someone in need who applies for assistance, "What happens they go there for the first night, the next day they're back here in social services looking for permanent housing. Sometimes that takes longer, it's not a one or two day thing, everybody knows what that's like, so it may stretch out, it may stretch out to 30 days, depending on a larger family or an individual, finding a house or an apartment that will accept them." A portion of the Davis Motel property contains efficiency apartments, and some of them are occupied. On Monday, we talked to David Currie who is currently living in one of the efficiency apartments. He and his girlfriend live right next door to a family that has young children. Currie is not happy to hear about the voucher system and potential for sex offenders to stay at the motel and have their stay paid for by the county, "I mean if they've done their time, they have to let them out unfortunately, but hopefully it's not around my family. I mean there are little kids who live here and I would hate to see something happen to them." Picente says he understands area residents concerns, but he says the law is the law, and the county, by law must help anyone in need, "We cannot identify them by law, by Social Service and by state law to say at that point we have an offender, that's not our role in this, and I know that this gets tough to understand, but every county in New York State is dealing with this right now." Councilman Zecca is holding a community discussion tonight to discuss this issue and get the community's input.It's set for 6:30 at the North Utica Community Center at 50 Riverside Dr.