County says Newnan House in compliance
by SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
The Newnan House Motel property on U.S. 29 North certainly isn’t anyone’s favorite Coweta landmark, but it’s fully compliant with county ordinances, according to Coweta County officials.
“The structure is in compliance with the county’s unsafe structure ordinance,” said Tom Corker, Coweta County communications manager. “In talking with our personnel, the owner has been very cooperative any time that a complaint has been received,” Corker said. “Of course, we will continue to enforce any ordinance violations that are found concerning the facility.”
The hotel, which was built in 1965, was closed in May 2012 following a fire in the front building. Because of the fire, the electricity was disconnected to the entire building. The state fire marshal’s office inspected the building on May 24, 2012, and ordered that the certificate of occupancy for the facility be voided.
As of December, only the front building was “reviewed/ turned in as a potential unsafe structure,” said Coweta County spokeswoman Patricia Palmer in December.
Corker said Wednesday there have been no changes since December.
Newnan House owner Pankaj “Paco” Desai said he has no plans to try to reopen the motel, as it would be excessively expensive. Especially since somebody has stolen all the air-conditioning units.
However, he is going to replace the shingles on the front building so that it will look better. He said Thursday the Dumpster for the shingle tear-off should be on site Friday.
“I don’t want to fight with these people,” Desai said.
There has been an abundance of Sound Offs submitted by readers for The Newnan Times-Herald’s editorial page about the Newnan House Motel lately, and Desai is tired of reading them. “I think this is wrong,” he said of some of the comments.
“My property is up to code,” he said. “I’ve got everything done.”
“I just talked to the [county] building department,” he said Thursday. He’s removed some tires and mattresses that were dumped on the property, and is considering adding a little landscaping, he said.
There were some problems with a tractor-trailer rig parking in the parking lot, and people complained about it. Desai kept leaving notes on the truck telling the man not to park there, but they weren’t working. He eventually had some metal stakes driven into the asphalt to prevent trucks from getting behind the main building. He put up caution tape to make the stakes visible.
People complained about that, too.
The stakes impede emergency access to the property, but that’s not a violation as far as the county is concerned.
“Equipment would have to be parked outside” of the barriers and that “could delay initial fire tactical operations,” Corker said. “The fire department has made photos of the area and notified crews of the situation.
In fact, Coweta County Fire Department crews were at the site Wednesday, taking measurements of the spaces between the stakes and looking around the property.
The county’s unsafe structure ordinance requires buildings that are determined to be unfit for their intended residential, commercial or industrial use be repaired or vacated. The county can require that buildings be demolished, but only if the cost to bring the buildings up to code is more than half the value the buildings would have once they are repaired.
Under the ordinance, a request to have a building declared an unsafe structure can be submitted to the county, but the request must be made by at least five residents of the unincorporated county. A request can also be filed by “any public authority,” and the building official himself has the right to pursue that designation.
Desai is used to the complaints. He’s been getting them “as long as I have owned the motel” — 1980.
“When it was open, everybody gave me a hard time, too,” he said. Desai added that, more recently, when the county told him things he needed to do, he did them, but then there were more requests every time something was completed. When developers were preparing to build the nearby Avery Park subdivision in the late 1990s, he got hassled and had to go to a city meeting, Desai said.
Avery Park and much of the surrounding area was annexed into the city of Newnan, but Desai’s property remains in the unincorporated county. He said he told the developers “if you want to buy this property, talk with me. But don’t call these people and give me a hard time.”
Desai said he had to spend between $50,000 and $75,000 on the motel at that time.
“Whatever I need, Paco will take care of,” he said, but he has a hard time finding contractors willing to work on the property.
He usually has to hire workers from Atlanta.
Desai is keeping the motel as investment property. The total tract is 7.7 acres, and the majority of the value is in the land.
According to Coweta County tax records, the land value is $489,510, and the value of the buildings is $93,053. None of the improvements he could do would be worthwhile, because whoever buys the land will tear down the motel and build something new anyway.
There’s no “For Sale” sign but “this is America,” he said.
“If the price is right, everything is for sale,” Desai said.
Desai also owns two other closed-down motels, The Oaks and Travel Inn on U.S. 29 South, as well as some houses near The Oaks. They are all in “prime locations” for future development, he said.
The Oaks has become a a tourist attraction of late, owing to its appearance in an episode of AMC cable television show “The Walking Dead.”
“You wouldn’t believe how many visitors” come to see it, Desai said.
Desai bought The Oaks in 2010, according to tax records, and has owned the Travel Inn since 1996.
All three hotels were built in the early to mid ‘60s.
Desai owns and operates Super 8 at Interstate 85.
Those who have only lived in Coweta for 20 or 30 years or less will likely be surprised to know that the Newnan House Motel was once one of the finest establishments in town. Its restaurant, which was located in the front building, was “the place to eat” after church with its Sunday buffet, and civic clubs met there. Desai said that, before he bought the motel in 1980, “everybody knew about the fried chicken. It was the best chicken in a 40-mile radius.”