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New Plaza Motel challenges closure order

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Owners of New Plaza Motel on 34 Street North near Fifth Avenue is suing the City of St. Petersburg to remain open.

The city’s Nuisance Abatement Board voted earlier this month to close New Plaza for one year after determining efforts to curb excessive police complaints had failed.

New Plaza Motel is a low-income efficiency known to rent to residents who can’t afford another place to stay. It’s considered by many a motel of last resort.

The lawsuit claims “the essential requirements of law were not observed, and the administrative findings were not supported by competent substantial evidence.” They also argue the forced closure constitutes a “wrongful taking without compensation to the owner.”

The lawsuit is not surprising. Following the ruling June 18 Amy Foster, a St. Pete City Council member who has long made nuisance abatement her top priority, said she was posititve there would be an appeal.

“But I think we have enough evidence to show that since 2011 – actually 2009 — they’ve been working on this and cannot get it under control,” Foster told SaintPetersblog earlier this month.

During quasi-judicial proceedings against the motel and attached bar, Cactus Charlie’s, in March and April owners claimed they had taken significant steps to abate chronic calls for service to the St. Pete Police Department.

During a hearing police testified they had received 230 calls for service originating from the property, far more than average for any other place in the city. Officers also testified to numerous undercover drug buys by detectives or confidential informants.

Since the two hearings in March and April there have been six more undercover drug buys on the property.

A separate lawsuit was even filed after the board ordered New Plaza to hire off-duty police to provide security. The lawsuit alleged, again, that illegal activity was at Cactus Charlie’s and not the motel. They also claimed the cost to hire off-duty police was not feasible.

However, since the proceedings owners voluntarily closed Cactus Charlie’s and illegal activity on the property continued. The Nuisance Abatement Board found there was no other way to curb the problem other than shutting the motel down for a year.

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 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

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