Jan. 24—Franklin city officials said the Knights Inn motel that was closed by court order Monday "has been the epicenter of continuous and substantial criminal activity in the city of Franklin for years."
After receiving no response to a cease-and-desist letter sent to owner Skylight Motels LLC, Franklin officials determined that "enough is enough," according to the city's public nuisance complaint filed Monday with the Warren County Common Pleas Court.
They obtained a court order for a temporary closure of the motel at 8500 Claude Thomas Road, just west of I-75′s Exit 38.
In court documents filed Monday, city officials said the property has operated as a hotel/motel since at least 1986. Skylight purchased the property in 2019. Franklin's complaint alleges the property has been used and occupied for the purposes of: — Trafficking, possessing, and abusing controlled substances; — Possessing drug abuse instruments and paraphernalia; — Engaging in prohibited conduct associated with lewdness, assignation, solicitation, and prostitution; — Housing thieves, burglars, robbers, and other persons involved with felonious conduct.
The complaint said the city receives constant calls for emergency services from the motel related to drug use, theft of property, and violent behavior by hotel guests.
An email seeking comment from the motel owner was not returned.
In addition, the city recently learned the Knights Inn was accepting payments from Recovery Street Central, a Dayton-based private company representing itself as an addiction treatment facility. According to the complaint, the group was paying the hotel for about 25 rooms to house their patients, with the city alleging that some of the patients continued their drug use on the hotel premises.
One such patient living at the Knights Inn overdosed and died on the property Jan. 16, according to the complaint. That was the fifth time in five years that Franklin EMS medics have discovered a dead body on the hotel premises, and represents just one of the more than a dozen different service calls related to drug overdoses occurring on the property, according to the complaint.
Recovery Street Central's phone system did not allow a message to be left when a reporter attempted to contact them for comment.
Other incidents occurring at the hotel, according to the complaint and attached police reports, included a female juvenile reported being raped in a hotel room on April 25, 2022. In 2021, a male resident of the property attempted to force his way into a hotel room occupied by a three-year-old and his mother. That led to a brief stand-off with Franklin police officers and multiple felony charges against the man, who eventually pleaded guilty to reduced charges.
The complaint states that "Since 2019 (when Skylight acquired the property), the city of Franklin Division of Police and Division of Fire/EMS have collectively received 520 calls for service to the property."
The city has received almost as many calls for service from the Knights Inn as from the city's other three hotels put together, the complaint said.
On Jan. 13, the city issued a written notice to Skylight Motels LLC outlining city code violations and chronic criminal nuisance activity on the property. Skylight Motels did not respond to the city's notice, according to the court complaint.
The court issued a temporary injunction allowing the closure. The city is seeking a judgment that the property be declared a public nuisance; and a permanent injunction ordering the property be closed for a minimum of one year.
Franklin is also seeking a court order to abate the nuisance through the demolition of the structure, taxing those costs to the owners. The city wants to sell all personal items and contents on the property without appraisal, at a public auction to the highest bidder for cash. And the city seeks payment of court costs and attorney's fees.
Franklin police served a court order Monday temporarily closing a Knights Inn after the city presented evidence that the motel is a public nuisance.
Police erected jersey barriers outside the property at 8500 Claude Thomas Road and taped a copy of the order issued by the Warren County Common Pleas Court, to the motel office door.
According to the order, the motel will be closed and padlocked while the court decides whether to grant the city's request for a permanent injunction against the property.
That hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 31 in Warren County Common Pleas Court.
The court said that Franklin had showed enough evidence that the motel constitutes a public nuisance, including its reputation as "a place where criminal activity runs rampant and a host of felony and other serious criminal offenses have occurred," as well as a "disproportionate" amount of calls received for the Franklin divisions of police and fire/EMS to respond to the property.
Franklin police said the motel has been the scene of vehicle thefts, and a spot where police have recovered stolen vehicles from surrounding communities.
During the closure, the court ordered all occupants of the motel to leave, though all personal property is ordered to remain in place.
The motel owners as well as "all other persons" have been ordered not to remove or interfere with any personal property in the motel. People can reclaim personal property if they can prove they acted in good faith, didn't know their property was creating a public nuisance and couldn't reasonably know it was creating a public nuisance.
City Manager Jonathan Westendorf said public works employees would be boarding up the windows and a fence would be erected around the perimeter of the motel. He said less than 10 people who were occupying six rooms were relocated from the motel. Westendorf said those people were offered social services and medical assistance as they were relocated.
This is not the first time a city has closed a motel as a public nuisance in the region. Last year, Vandalia shut down a Super 8 motel for various violations.