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Facing foreclosure, Mosley Motel hit with more fines by St. Pete

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The St. Petersburg Nuisance Abatement Board voted to levy additional fines to the long crime-plagued Mosley Motel after owners failed to make improvements agreed upon as part of a previously approved turnaround plan for the property.

Under the latest vote taken Wednesday afternoon, Mosley will have to pay $100 a day beginning Dec. 8th and ongoing until the property is in compliance. As of the vote that amounts to $3,600.

But the issue isn’t all that cut and dry. The Mosley Motel located on 34th Street North near Fifth Avenue has been in foreclosure proceedings for four years. That foreclosure is set to be finalized Jan. 28.

Because of that, the motel owners’ attorney Joe Pearlman asked that the board wait until its next meeting on Feb. 10 to determine what, if any, fines there would be because the motel may be under bank ownership by then.

Pearlman stated the city would then have to deal with Fifth Third Bank. However, property records show the foreclosure was filed by HSBC Bank. Any fines assessed by the city and not paid would appear as liens on the property. That means the city would still be owed fines even if the bank took the property again.

While the board did not grant Pearlman’s request, they did agree to revisit the fine next month and finalize a fine based on what happens with the foreclosure.

Board chairman Sean McQuade suggested considering shutting the property down altogether, however, legal staff said that’s not possible under the initial ordinance approved by the board that required certain improvements to the property with only a maximum $100 per day fine allowable as a non-compliance consequence.

At issue this time around it the Mosley Motel’s inaction in providing better CPTED at the property. That stands for Crime Prevention through Environmental Design and includes strategies for keeping properties clean, providing adequate lighting, keeping the building in good repair and maintaining a well-kept look.

Officer Chip Wells from the St. Petersburg Police Department testified that while the owners of the motel and its employees did take some steps in meeting the department’s CPTED recommendations, they failed to make any meaningful progress.

Lighting in some areas of the motel was still not fixed, and closed-circuit television cameras in some areas had wires dangling from the ceiling that could easily be torn down.

“It makes those cameras useless,” Wells said.

Another camera in a hallway was also deemed useless because the hallway was not lit at night. Wells said any video captured on that camera would not have been discernible.

There were also several easy to fix recommendations the motel did not complete including something as simple as placing garbage cans around common areas to cut back on litter on the property.

Wells called it the “broken window theory” where keeping small crimes out of a neighborhood like vandalism or car break-ins tends to thwart more serious crime.

Likewise, he explained, a property littered with trash appears uncared for and becomes a target for criminal activity.

The Mosley attorney told the Nuisance Abatement Board owners had ceased making improvements recommended by St. Pete Police because money had simply run out.

The motel’s owners had been banking on refinancing the property to avoid foreclosure and help with cash flow, but that plan fell through. While Wells claimed many of the changes were simple and some just a matter of simple policy changes, Pearlman argued they were still too much of a burden for a motel facing imminent foreclosure.

It’s not exactly clear what will happen if the bank does repossess the Mosley Motel. It seems unlikely the bank would operate it until new owners surfaced.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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