Rules limiting motel stays in effect

May 4, 2016

While new regulations that prohibit motel guests from staying longer than 21 days went into effect May 1, officials aren’t enforcing the rule, for now.

“Before we get into enforcement we’re helping people get into the appropriate living situation,” said Board of Health Chair Amy Wiegandt.

In October, the board imposed a 21-day limit on how long a guest can remain in a motel or hotel room. The regulation affects an unknown number of residents, but some have lived in motels for up to 35 years.

“[The new regulation] affects all my people,” said Sam Smith, manager of the Starlight Motel, located on 3102 Cranberry Highway. “They can’t find another new place to live. There’s nothing out there, and they don't have any money. The security deposit just wipes them out.”

The regulation has been discussed since last year, and was going to go into effect Jan. 1. On Nov. 4, the board pushed that enforcement date forward to May with cold weather coming.

Over the past two months, leaders from The Emmanuel Church of the Nazarene have hosted discussions about the regulation in hopes of finding solutions for residents. Health agents, motel residents and other community members have attended the meetings and voiced their concerns.

Pastor David Shaw has been pivotal in these discussions, and he continues to meet with organizations that may help the residents. One of these organizations is The Turning Point, a subsidiary of Wareham Area Committee for the Homeless.

In addition to meetings with residents, health agents have visited motels and talked to owners. Rather than kicking residents out of the motels, health agents suggested that motel owners renovate their buildings to include efficiency units that would allow residents to remain in the motels. Board of Health members had spoken about building community eating areas or extending rooms to include kitchens.

Though only a couple of motels have voiced their intentions for renovations, none have approached the Board of Health with a solid plan.

“One [motel] is planning to go into the rooming house, so it would be nice to reach out to them so they could come with some sort of plan,” said Weigandt.

Shaw said the Travelers Choice Inn on 3082 Cranberry Highway is planning renovations that would revamp it as a rooming house. According to a resident, the Rosewood Motel plans to extend their rooms to include small kitchens.

The Starlight Motel will bring in new rugs, bedding and furniture within the next two weeks, said Smith. He hopes it will help out a little. He said all of his residents are good people and he doesn't want to see them leave.

The full effect of the regulation will take place 21 days after May 1.

“We're hoping that everybody that has an issue will be placed by then,” said Health Agent Robert Ethier. “We don't know what's goning to happen until then.”

“I don't think they'll be kicked out,” said Smith. “I have no idea what this town will do, but I think they’ll be fair with them.”