'Crack motel' Economy Inn ordered to close

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The city’s Nuisance Abatement Board voted unanimously Tuesday to fine and shut down a 34th Street motel that is plagued with complaints of illegal drug use, prostitution and lawlessness, writes my colleague Linda Hersey of Patch.

In eight hours of testimony, police and neighbors alleged that illegal activities are common at the Economy Inn motel, at 451 34th St. North.

Undercover detectives, who testified behind a curtain and with their voices modulated, discussed illegal drug transactions that they have witnessed at the motel.

Neighbors of the motel, especially residents who live in a nearby highrise, testified that it is not unusual for them to see people engaging in sexual acts and drug transactions in the motel parking lot.

One highrise resident said he was accosted by three people from the motel and beaten up. The young men stole his cell phone. (See Video interview.)

At the end of the testimony, seven board members declared the motel a “public nuisance.”

They voted unanimously to fine the motel $12,000. The amount was based on the number of police incidents presented to the board as evidence.

The amount covers the $5,750 fines assessed and $6,250 costs for police investigations and attorneys’ fees.

The board also agreed, by a 7-0 vote, to close the motel for one year. That is the maximum amount of time the Nuisance Abatement Board is permitted to shut down a business. The Economy Motel can appeal the decision in court.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.