South Portland imposes new licensing conditions on motels, hotels

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council on Tuesday enacted six conditions on all hotels and motels, including surveillance cameras in public areas and a mandate to cooperate with law enforcement. 

All five councilors present voted in favor of the new requirements; Mayor Linda Cohen was absent from the Oct. 2 meeting. 

Earlier this year, the council denied license renewals for two Main Street motels after repeated criminal activity was alleged to have occurred at the establishments. 

Police attempted in May to have the Maine Motel and the Knights Inn abide by six specific conditions before recommending the council not renew their licenses.

South Portland Police Chief Ed Googins had recommended several conditions be placed on the license renewals, such as increased staff cooperation with police and installing surveillance cameras in the public areas of the motels. The attorney for the motels, David Lourie, challenged the conditions as unconstitutional, and the issue ended up in court.  

The council, in an effort not to isolate the two businesses and to make the license requirements uniform, decided to apply the conditions to all lodging. The conditions were first proposed by Councilor Adrian Dowling, who suggested the change apply to all establishments. 

Other conditions now in place include requiring motel proprietors to attend an annual police training program on identifying criminal activity, determining the identity of guests who rent a room and reporting suspected illegal activity. 

Compliance will be considered by the licensing board in future decisions.

At the meeting on May 15, City Councilors cited repeated reports of criminal activity at the two motels – including drug activity and sex trafficking – as the basis for the decision not to renew the licenses.

City Corporation Counsel Sally Daggett and David Lourie, the attorney for Knights Inn owner Kantilal Patel and Maine Motel owner Ibrahim Dhamdachhawala, had a confidential judicial hearing in June with Superior Court Justice Roland Cole at which they all agreed on the six conditions for the owners to follow if they wanted to stay open.

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JulietteLaaka. 

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