Arlington Heights sets rules to fine or shut down motels if deemed a crime 'nuisance'
Arlington Heights trustees Tuesday implemented new rules to fine or even shut down hotels or motels deemed to be a "nuisance" for crime.
The so-called nuisance hotels ordinance, approved on a 6-1 vote of the village board, comes in response to increased police calls at two motels on the south end of town in recent years.
Under the rules, a hotel can be declared a nuisance if there have been, in a 180-day period, at least three "incidents" -- such as disorderly conduct, unlawful use of weapons, mob action, possession or delivery of controlled substances and prostitution -- two "aggravated incidents" -- which can include aggravated assault and battery, criminal sexual abuse and other crimes up to homicide -- or five "alleged incidents."
An alleged incident is one in which a crime has occurred but no charges have been filed, such as the stabbing that occurred near one of the motels last month, village officials said.
Once those thresholds are met, the village will give notice to the owner and schedule an administrative adjudication hearing at village hall. A hearing officer can level fines of up to $750 per incident, ask for any costs incurred by the village to be reimbursed or require new security measures, according to the ordinance.
Special hearings would be required for the temporary closure of a hotel for up to 180 days, or for its license to be revoked.
Police Chief Nick Pecora could also institute an emergency closure for up to 60 days if there's an immediate threat to public safety or welfare, the ordinance says.
But before the process even gets that far along, village officials say they'll give hoteliers a warning that they're at risk for becoming a nuisance once there's been two incidents, one aggravated incident or two alleged incidents. That would trigger a meeting with Pecora, Village Manager Randy Recklaus and the hotel owner to negotiate a voluntary agreement to address the issues.
Recklaus said he has already been having those kinds of conversations with the vast majority of hotel managers, but "we want to have something where there's some accountability."
Trustee Jim Bertucci, who recently did two ride-alongs with police patrolling the hotels near Arlington Heights and Algonquin roads, said the ordinance was long overdue.
"What I saw there was abominable at some of those hotels," Bertucci said. "I dare say -- I'm almost embarrassed to say -- in just two ride-alongs, we were brought to those hotels for a few of those issues."
Trustee Tom Schwingbeck, who also did a ride-along with police, said the new rules don't go far enough.
"I read through this and I said, 'Are we being too lenient? Do we need to go after them harder?'" he said.
But Trustee John Scaletta, the lone "no" vote, said the new regulations give too much power to the village manager and chief, and is burdensome on hotels where there isn't crime.
"I feel like were trying to kill a fly with a sledgehammer," Scaletta said. "I can't believe that we don't have enough codes on the books right now to go after these violators that are creating havoc in the village that we have to go to such draconian methods. It's so subjective and it's so broad, and it gives way too much control to two people in the village."
The ordinance also requires all hotels to have security measures in place by Jan. 1, including security doors, lighting, cameras and continuous digital surveillance of registers, checkout stands, hallways, lobbies, parking lots, entrances and exits.