The white flag appeared just as the city was gearing up for battle.
Police Cmdr. Kurt Pillard says he received a letter July 25 from a lawyer for Ken Brown, the lessee of South Nevada Avenue's Cheyenne Motel. The Cheyenne long a thorn in the police department's side would close for business in a month, the letter said. It asked the city for instructions on boarding up the place.
Pillard says as far as he understands, the property owner, who lives in Asia, plans to keep the building, and Brown may redevelop it with her permission in the future.
The decision to close the motel comes following increased scrutiny from the city. Fire inspectors cited 10 violations that were not corrected within the allotted time, and the police department compiled evidence that the hotel qualified as a nuisance, due mostly to the high volume of calls for service. City prosecutor Scott Patlin says the cases could still go to trial.
The closing is a victory for the South Nevada merchants group, concerned business owners who have long expressed disdain for the motel's clientele. It's also a victory for City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher, who has pushed the city to enforce code and nuisance laws to pressure the motel into cleaning up its act or closing.
To them, the motel and the crime it's said to attract has been damaging nearby business and standing in the way of ambitious plans to redevelop the area.
One big question, however, remains: What happens to the people who call the Cheyenne home?
It's hard to say how many people live in the motel. Brown did not return e-mails, but he has previously stated that the complex was rarely full. Four rooms were condemned not long ago. Heimlicher says he believes just six rooms have been recently occupied.
Whatever the case, the city Housing Authority does not seem to have any specific plans to place the residents in low-income housing. Executive director Gene Montoya says the authority's biggest program, Section 8, which provides rent assistance, has such a long waiting list that it's no longer accepting applications. There are other programs, but many have specific requirements, like being a senior citizen or a veteran.
Asked if he could place, say, 10 to 15 people in a month, he replied, "Within a short period of time, [that] is probably a little optimistic."
So, where will they go? Though Heimlicher has said before that he would seek new homes for the Cheyenne's residents, he says now that he'll work to ensure low-income housing specific to the South Nevada population is made available later, as the area is redeveloped. The Cheyenne's manager is closing the motel of his own accord, so it's his problem, Heimlicher says, adding that residents could simply move down the street to one of the area's other motels.
At least for now. Heimlicher says he's already taking a look at other motels in the area that seem to attract a lot of attention from the police.
"The Cheyenne Motel," he says, "is not being singled out as the only target."
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