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Law & Order

Crime-Ridden Orange Park Hotel Ordered To Shut Its Doors

Ryan Benk

After years of being a crime magnet in Orange Park, the Rodeway Inn has been ordered to shut its doors.

The fate of the troubled hotel now rests with a Clay County judge, who is deciding whether to approve the Town Council’s order.

The Rodeway Inn on Highway 17, just off I-295, has been a thorn in the side of law enforcement for a long time, with 1,600 calls to police in the last year alone. On top of that, a fugitive wanted for murder in Philadelphia was recently arrested at the hotel.

Town attorney Sam Garrison said local officials created a nuisance abatement board to bring the hammer down on the hotel, which had more than 20 complaints for prostitution and drug deals.

“We looked around and said, ‘Well, what can we do? What tools are available to us?’” Garrison said. “And state law allows for municipalities to enact the creation of what’s called a nuisance abatement board.”

The board has the power to shutter a property if there are more than two instances of serious criminal activity, and it  voted to close the Rodeway’s doors this week.

But that wasn’t before repeatedly giving owners a chance to clean house, Garrison says.

“What we found was not just that there were individuals there who were involved in selling drugs and buying drugs and prostitution and any number of other things, a lot of firearms offenses, but we found that the physical plant of the hotel itself, the way it was being operated and maintained, was conducive to this problem,” he says.

Garrison says some innocent families also live amongst criminal activity in the dilapidated structure. He says fire alarms don't work, while many residents use makeshift equipment to cook food.

So the group Changing Homelessness is in the process of finding housing for some of those residents who are being displaced by the closure.

Meanwhile, Garrison said it could be months before a judge considers the order to shut down the hotel, and it continues operating for now.