Last week’s court order allowing the Oneida Family Motel to reopen is a win for everyone.
It’s a win for 8th Judicial District Attorney Jared Effler and his staff, and the Oneida Police Department, who convinced the motel’s owners — Chris and Nada Yousif — to agree to the stipulations they wanted.
It’s a win for the Yousifs, who will be able to reopen their business.
And it’s a win for Scott County, which will hopefully see a crime-ridden property that has become both an eyesore and a tax on local law enforcement turned into a reputable business once more.
We applaud Effler and Oneida Chief of Police Darryl Laxton for taking action to close the motel in the first place. Forcing a business to close its doors isn’t what is always politically expedient, and April’s action drew a fair amount of criticism from local citizens who were concerned about residents of the motel being evicted with nowhere to go. Sometimes, however, doing what’s right comes with some collateral damage and, in this case, the concerns and welfare of the entire community overrode the concerns of a small number of residents who were living at the motel.
We also applaud the Yousifs for making significant concessions in order to reopen the motel. They did not have to strike a deal with the D.A.’s office; they could’ve taken their chance in court, allowing their attorney to argue that the motel should be allowed to reopen with lesser changes. The order agreed to by the Yousifs will require the motel to significantly alter its business model. By not renting rooms to citizens within a 50-mile radius of the motel, and by not allowing tenants to remain on the property for longer than two-weeks, the Yousifs will be making a move away from long-term residency at the motel, which should discourage some of the criminal activity that has occurred there.
It’s perhaps important for local residents to understand that state law prescribes a process that local authorities must go through in order to declare a business a public nuisance and have it closed. While Town of Oneida officials might want nothing more than to see the old motel torn down and a new business constructed in its place, that isn’t the way the law works. Once courts issue an original injunction ordering a property closed under the nuisance abatement, the business’s owners are afforded the opportunity to present a plan to the court to rectify those problems and reopen their business.
By working with the Yousifs to obtain an agreement, Effler and Laxton were presumably able to accomplish most or all of the changes they wish to see at the property, in the best interests of the town and its citizens. Had they not worked with the Yousifs, they would have taken a chance that the court would have allowed the motel to reopen with far lesser concessions. As it is, Effler and Laxton were able to obtain an agreement that will end long-term occupancy at the motel and will see tenants who were evicted back in April refunded their money.
Past editorials in this newspaper have been critical of both the motel and the way its owners have conducted themselves in business through the motel. However, by agreeing to the demands of local judicial officials, the Yousifs have demonstrated a willingness to operate a business that isn’t a blight on the community and a hindrance to law enforcement.
It’s probably a pipe dream to think that the former Tobe’s Motel will ever be returned to its former state; even with the best of efforts, the facility is simply too out-dated. But if the stipulations of last week’s court order are adhered to, there’s no reason the Oneida Family Motel cannot be a business that contributes to the local tax coffers while also providing a few jobs and perhaps returning to a lodging establishment that those of us who call this community home aren’t ashamed to recommend to our friends who are visiting the area.
Hopefully, the conditions of last week’s court agreement will be adhered to. And, hopefully, they will be strictly enforced by local officials who will force the matter back into court if they aren’t. Only time will tell if the former happens, but actions to this point provide confidence that the latter will happen if the former doesn’t. Either way, the citizens of Oneida and Scott County will be better off.
• Agree? Disagree? Sound off at ihoneida.com.