CITY ORDERS TOURIST INN TO CLOSE
Drug dealing, intoxicated violent fights, prostitution, open domestic abuse, loud late-night parties, littered drug and sex paraphernalia, overflowing garbage and intimidation from tenants will all be a thing of the past this summer for neighbours of the Tourist Inn on 200 Street.
To the sounds of cheers and applause from residents and business owners who live and work near the Tourist Inn, Langley City council unanimously revoked the motel's business licence on Monday night.
Residents of Glenwood Manor packed into the City Hall chambers well past midnight to hear the outcome of the lengthy hearing into whether Tourist Inn would be shut down by the City.
"I am so relieved. I can now have my grandchildren over on my balcony," said Georgia DeMille after the decision. Her apartment balcony faces the Tourist Inn.
On a motion from Councillor Gayle Martin, council gave the Tourist Inn 30 days to close, allowing long-term tenants to find another place to live.
"In my 17 years on council, I've never done this before and it's very upsetting to me.
"First, I must apologize to the Glenwood Manor residents for what they've gone through over the past four years," said Martin in her motion.
Before the decision, Tourist Inn owner Bhupinder Sandhu pleaded with council to give her another chance, explaining that she is now willing to take stricter action on who she rents rooms to and is taking over management from her husband.
She also hired a security guard less than a month ago, she claims. But when asked if the security guard had any training or came from a licensed company, she said he didn't.
Residents told council they had never seen the security guard.
A neighbouring business owner said prostitution at the inn is actually getting worse.
With a lawyer representing the City and two lawyers representing the Sandhus, the hearing was very much like a trial, with witnesses and opening and closing statements from each counsel.
"I've watched violence at the Tourist Inn I haven't even seen on TV," said Glenwood Manor resident Christine Watson, whose balcony, bedroom and living room face the stairwell to the second floor of the inn.
"I watched a man take a woman by the hair and drag her down the stairs. I've watched prostitutes and guys on bikes coming at all hours of the night dropping off and picking up packages," said Watson, who was a witness. She only calls police if a person's life is in danger.
"If I would call the police every time something took place I'd be harassing the police, it's that constant."
Watson said her work and social life has been impacted by the constant noise and violent incidents going on at the inn.
"I just want to have a good night's sleep and have people over," said Watson, a teacher.
The owner of Suds City, which is directly across from the Inn, said he had to do overnight security with his brothers this year just to stop the nightly thefts and vandalism, much of it caused by customers and visitors of the Tourist Inn.
When he chased the culprits away, they ran right into the Tourist Inn, testified Mr. Gill, the Suds City owner.
Balvinder ( Bill ) and Bhupinder Sandhu bought the Tourist Inn at 5796 200 St. in 2003. Langley RCMP officers testified at the hearing that problems started immediately following the Sandhus' purchase of the motel.
The Sandhus claimed they inherited the undesirable characters from the previous owners ( when it was called the Snuggle Inn ).
Langley RCMP officers disputed that, saying they have never had more police time dedicated to any other hotel or motel.
Former Langley RCMP Const. Brit Elam testified that she spent countless hours in 2003 with the Sandhus, showing them ways they could improve the clientelle they attract and protect the property with gates and fences. None of her suggestions were acted upon.
She set up a meeting with concerned neighbours and the Sandhus in August 2003. The Sandhus didn't show.
"I worked with the Sandhus weekly, if not daily," said Elam. She testified that Mr. Sandhu took TVs and DVD players in lieu of payment for a room.
"He was very averse to proper protocol," she said. Officers testified that if they applied pressure to the Sandhus, the calls for service would decline for a while, but return to square one once they stopped coming by.
"The only ones knocking on the door ( are ) drug dealers, prostitutes. They ( the Sandhus ) have to pay the bills somehow. They are telling me they are slowly improving things," said the Sandhus' lawyer Colin Huggett.
Bhupinder testified that after four years of police and bylaw officers trying to work with her to improve the ever-deteriorating situation, she has now learned it's time to change.
"This is not an easy business to run," said Bhupinder.
They had no experience running a motel, Huggett said of the Sandhus.
But when asked if they owned a large rental property in Port Coquitlam that had so many problems the City had to take action, Bhupinder admitted they had.
"You were compelled by the City of Port Coquitlam to renovate the [rooming house] or tear it down.
"You didn't meet the City's deadline to come into compliance, did you?" asked City counsel Alex Sayn-Wittgenstein.
Mrs. Sandhu answered that she didn't.
Now, in 2007, she wants a second chance to make the Tourist Inn better, she said.
She claimed she was surprised and shocked that there were problems at the Inn. She said she learned her neighbours were upset with the constant noise and illegal activity taking place through newspaper articles.
"We weren't aware the neighbours are not happy. We are suffering as much as they are," she testified. She also claimed she had no warning about the hearing or that the mayor had visited her property in 2006.
This upset Mayor Peter Fassbender, who told Mrs. Sandhu that he doesn't believe her husband and son would not tell her he had come by to warn them their licence could be revoked.
While hotels and motels around Langley City received less than, or around a dozen calls per year for service from police, the Tourist Inn racked up 93 calls in 2006 and already has 30 in 2007.
Police testified some calls come from tenants who are themselves being assaulted. Other calls relate to customers who have outstanding warrants, customers who are causing a disturbance and many who possess stolen property. Some calls were generated by the Sandhus themselves about unruly customers.
"We recognize the Tourist Inn has been a burden on police and we don't dispute there are serious problems that are unreasonable for neighbours to have a quality of life. Mrs. Sandhu understands that now. She'll make the changes . . .this is not a hopeless case," said Hoggett.
But council members one by one said the Sandhus' operation of the motel is a hopeless case.
Each one said they had more than four years to clean up their act.
Councillor Ted Schaffer even said she should be embarrassed.
"This is an embarrassment to your family."
Martin told Mrs. Sandhu she owed the community an apology.
Langley Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Langley Times