JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville city councilman wants a building known previously for violence and drugs to be shut down, but its new owner hopes to find a better solution.
The motel is the Home 1 Great Stay on Harts Road, formerly known as the Gold Rush Motel. While it’s under the new ownership, Councilman Reggie Gaffney Jr. says it has the same problems as before.
“I got at least 15 to 20 calls from constituents on Harts Road fearing for their safety. They want this hotel shut down. When they call me, it’s my job to respond and react,” Gaffney Jr. said.
The councilman said he’s reached out to the city’s office of general counsel, and they are reviewing his request to demolish the motel.
RELATED: City councilman calls for troublesome Northside hotel to be demolished after body was found
Gloria Glover, the new manager of the Home 1 Great Stay, said she wants to talk with the city and Gaffney Jr.
“I am open to a conversation, but right now I am asking the nuisance and abatement board to close down the hotel immediately,” Gaffney Jr. said.
Glover told me by phone that she is working to make the motel a safer place.
“It’s not like we are just letting locals come in. We have stopped letting locals come into our hotel,” Glover said.
In addition, the manager said, they were not told about the entire history of violence before the property was purchased.
“We do know that that hotel has some really really prior bad incidents and prior things that have happened under that old name,” Glover said. “Again, we are doing everything under our power to make sure that we get rid of that negative impact that that area had.”
The property was purchased within the last year.
According to Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office records since the new management took over, there have been 52 calls for service from Jan. 1 to March 26.
Among the calls: a shooting, auto theft, domestic violence and a warrant for an arrest.
The manager said the most recent death at the motel was due to a customer that overdosed while in one of the motel rooms. She said they are working on screening customers in an attempt to reduce the amount of people involved in illegal activity, but it may be too late if the city decides to tear the building down.
Gaffney Jr. said that the office of general counsel could decide as early as Tuesday morning on whether or not to demolish the building. The management for the motel is flying in on Tuesday to work on a compromise.
Notably, Gaffney Jr. is running for reelection. He’s facing Tameka Gaines Holly, who sent us a statement:
On Saturday, March 25, around 1:30 pm, my husband and I drove past the Home 1 Great Stay motel on Harts Rd. and noticed a few JSO officers and an area surrounded by red and white crime scene tape. Prior to the arrival of the news media or any elected officials, we inquired about what had occurred.
We learned a Black male had been found unresponsive, possibly due to an overdose. We called a few pastors and community members of that area to share what we’d learned and discuss plans on how best to address the safety of our community. Later on that evening, I learned the current councilperson for the area had called a press conference to share the news of a possible overdose and call for immediate demolishment of the business.
After further research, I learned the councilman’s father, the previous councilperson, had gotten the motel shutdown before, but did not successfully deal with the issue. Once the junior councilman came into office, he also did not work with the new ownership of the motel to provide support or resources to prevent further issues arising from this motel.
This immediate call for demolition of the business in such a drastic and public way leads me to believe this is nothing more than a publicity stunt for re-election. Otherwise, any true leader would know there are processes in place to govern situations like this and it is nearly impossible to have such drastic measures completed within 30 days.
Furthermore, other considerations should be addressed in cooperation with the call for immediate demolishment such as the relocation of individuals and families, including children who attend nearby schools, living at the motel, the cost for demolition, and the impact of yet another potential blighted property in our community. None of which have I heard addressed by the councilman with his call for demolition.
The City’s public nuisance process allows for citizens to make complaints about particular properties, but that process also requires JSO to investigate whether such properties constitute a public nuisance and if appropriate refer the matter to the Public Nuisance Abatement Board. I am unsure if these procedural steps have been taken by the councilperson.
While I do agree if the Public Nuisance Abatement Board finds fault with the motel and its new ownership and calls for the business to be shut down, that indeed we should take steps to do so.
However, I differ in that it should happen within 30 days without a plan for the other considerations outlined above. My highest priority is the safety of our residents and communities. If elected, I will work with JSO and do everything within my ability to assist with the public safety of our city as I have consistently done as a community advocate.Tameka Gaines Holly