The city is officially putting Knights Inn on notice.
Motel owner Anil Patidar has been summoned to City Hall on Thursday morning to meet with city attorneys and code compliance and law enforcement officials. They will try to persuade Patidar to clean up his property or risk facing a lawsuit that would seek to shut down the business.
Knights Inn, located at the mouth of Las Vegas Trail along the south side of Interstate 30, is a serial code compliance violator and the site of rampant criminal activities, according to the Fort Worth Police Department. The Fort Worth Code Compliance Department has deemed Knights Inn the city’s most egregious code violator and a chronic nuisance since at least 2006.
Classified by code compliance as “high risk,” Knights Inn is one of three hotels and motels in the city that require quarterly code inspections. Currently eight of its rooms are closed because of violations, down from 11 in the spring. Recurring major violations over the past two years include bedbugs, roaches, evidence of rodents, mold, no hot water, broken windows, inoperative door locks and stained mattresses.
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“The meeting is part of an overall effort to improve the quality of life in the Las Vegas Trail area,” said Chris Mosley, senior assistant city attorney. “We’re meeting with several different owners to work with them, to eliminate crime at their property and other property in the Las Vegas Trail area.
“It is something where we can sometimes gain compliance without having to file a lawsuit.”
If Patidar does not comply with the requirements set forth Thursday, the city could turn to a “Chapter 125” lawsuit, city attorneys said. Chapter 125 of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code is a “nuisance abatement” statute. Owners who fail to make attempts to abate criminal activity on their property can potentially have their businesses shut down for a year.
“If nothing comes of [the meeting], the city has to look at their options,” Mosley said.
‘Increased crime levels’
Councilman Brian Byrd, elected to the post in May, has made Las Vegas Trail a top priority. A Star-Telegram special report on child abuse in June exposed persistent poverty, excessive violent crime and high rates of addiction and unemployment along the mile-long stretch of road lined by tightly packed, low-income apartment complexes.
Byrd recently formed the Las Vegas Trail Revitalization Project, a team of city leaders in economic development, education, housing, social services and public safety. It will hold its first public meeting at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 24 at Birchman Baptist Church.
Patidar, who lives with his family in the Montserrat neighborhood, is the second Las Vegas Trail business owner to be asked to visit City Hall. The owners of the Mira Monte Apartments, located on the corner of Las Vegas Trail and Calmont Avenue, received a warning two weeks ago to either clean up their property and work to deter crime or risk further action by the city.
Knights Inn is a frequent hotbed of police activity. Statistics provided to Byrd show 52 “nuisance offenses” at the property during a two-year period from July 14, 2015, to July 14, 2017. Twenty-two of those offenses were some form of assault and 24 were narcotics violations.
“Dirty, poorly maintained establishments contribute to the increased crime levels we see in the Las Vegas Trail area,” Byrd said. “The city of Fort Worth wants to see all hotel and apartment owners to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
‘We are not going to hesitate’
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The motel attracts a mix of customers, many of whom are unable to rent an apartment or have been evicted and need shelter while searching for permanent housing. About half of the motel’s 89 available rooms are rented by people staying for an extended period, estimated maintenance man Clint Martin, who started working there about six months ago.
Knights Inn does not have a favorable history. The city sued Patidar’s company, Krisha Investments, in 2011 for failing to pay hotel occupancy taxes incurred over a five-year period, as well as prior taxes owed that had been carried over from the previous owner. The city received an injunction to shut down the business.
The injunction was enforced for one day — until Patidar paid half the amount owed, $21,758.60. He then made three payments of $7,252.87 over the next three months.
In an unrelated case, Patidar is being sued by Sunbelt Rentals for at least $20,735.49 for failing to pay for rental equipment, records show. A court date is set for Nov. 6.
Knights Inn now consists of two structures. A third structure previously stood at the south end. However, after the city’s Buildings Standards Commission became involved in 2009 because of code violations, the structure was demolished, leaving the west and east wings.
“At code enforcement, we reject the idea to believe that ‘it is what it is’ when it comes to these types of properties,” said Elmer DePaula, assistant director of code compliance. “The officers work very hard, diligently, in doing these inspections to bring about corrections, and when the risk continues to rise from the health and safety standpoint, we are not going to hesitate, like we did in the past, to bring them to the Building Standards Commission, and if so, to bring our attorneys to the table to bring about other solutions.”
Star-Telegram reporter Jeff Caplan interviews Fort Worth police Lt. Kirk Driver at the community forum hosted by the Star-Telegram at Western Hills Primary School in Fort Worth. on Wednesday, August 16, 2016 Maricar Estrellamaricar@star-telegram.com
Jeff Caplan is a projects and enterprise reporter for the Star-Telegram. Reach him at 817-390-7705, @Jeff_Caplan.