By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MOULTONBOROUGH — Some 20 adults and a dozen children who had been living at the Rodeway Inn were displaced last week after the owner was ordered to repair or replace the failed septic system or cease operations by April 14.
Town Administrator Walter Johnson said Monday that Don Cahoon, the code enforcement officer, has raised concerns about the property for some time. In March, when sewage was found flowing onto the ground, he ordered the owner to begin pumping immediately in anticipation of repairing or replacing the system. When the Board of Selectmen met last Thursday, Johnson explained that, along with the failed septic system, there are “numerous life safety and health code violations” at the property. Although it is permitted for use as a motel, Johnsonsaid it appeared to be operating like an apartment building, contrary to land use regulations.
Johnson said that in addition to ensuring the septic system is approved, the state Department of Environmental Resources said the property owner must also address the life safety, health code and land use issues before the cease-and-desist order will be lifted.
Describing herself as a manager of the property, Patricia Brennan, who lives at the motel with her children, told the selectmen that most of the residents are either “homeless” or “in transition” with “nowhere else to go. Some of the children, she said, are attending school in Moultonborough.
The owner, she said, is Pakistani, with limited proficiency in spoken English, who “does not understand the law at all.” On Monday a man at the motel who described himself as the “manager” declined to comment on the situation beyond saying that “most of tenants have left.”
Brennan said that the owner has secured $20,000 to forestall foreclosure proceedings scheduled for May 5 and has received estimates of between $15,000 and $20,000 to address the septic system. She said he indicated he has the financing and is prepared to proceed with the work.
Brennan suggested that the owner misunderstood the order issued ordered in March and believed he was that by pumping sewage weekly until March 24 he was in compliance. She asked the selectmen to permit her to remain on the property to protect the building from vandalism and safeguard the belongings of the tenants.
“I’m sympathetic to what’s going on here,” said Chris Shipp, who chairs the selectboard. “I understand the human side of it.”
He was echoed by Selectman Josh Bartlett, who said, “I hate to be hard on the folks living there,” and acknowledged the “chronic shortage of low-cost housing in this town.”
However, Selectman Joel Mudgett stressed “We have to back up code enforcement. We do. We do.”
The Rodeway Inn in Moultonborough is located on Route 25. (Google Maps graphic)
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