LOVELAND — For the handful of tenants who still remain at the Cozy Kitchenettes on West Eisenhower Boulevard, the clock is ticking.
The problem is, they don’t know for how long.
“None of us expected this,” said Melody MacDonnell, who manages the 19-unit motel with her husband, Gary. “We’re all scrambling to find a place to go.”
Owner Jim Arvidson said he will be forced to shut down the motel, 2021 W. Eisenhower Blvd., and evict the people who are left. The notices could come as early as the end of this month.
Arvidson said after the city issued him a building permit Aug. 10 to renovate the motel, his costs nearly doubled, putting the repairs out of reach.
“Somebody in the city got it in their head to close it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a safety issue anymore.”
The city charged Arvidson with 70 criminal counts for allegedly violating the city housing code in November 2003. City officials say the motel is a public danger and was never intended as permanent residence.
“The building was originally designed as a motel,” said Greg George, director of development services. “We didn’t authorize the conversion of that from a motel use to an apartment use.”
At the beginning of the year, when the case first started, the motel that rents on a weekly and monthly basis was home to 12 households. This May, Arvidson and city officials struck an agreement that allowed the tenants to continue living there as long as the units were brought up to code.
Then, the number dropped to 10 households. As the work got started, but the threat of eviction loomed, that number finally dwindled to six.
Tony Hughes and his wife, Stacy Acton, are one of the families who banked on the motel staying open. They said they need to show Larimer County Human Services that they have stable and continuous housing in order to win back custody of their son, James.
“They pretty much lied to us and lied to Jim about wanting us to stay here,” Hughes said. “It’s baffling; I get too upset about it.”
George said while city officials are concerned for the welfare of the residents, the motel is a hazard.
“We are sympathetic to the plight of those people, but the people have to realize it’s a serious public safety problem for them to remain in those units.”
He said one of the main differences between a motel and a residence is the walls in a permanent residence should have a fire protection treatment. Without this extra buffer, a fire could rapidly spread from one unit to the next.
Arvidson said he already has shelled out thousands to bring the motel into compliance — $32,000 in electrical, heating and maintenance upgrades more than a year ago and another $20,000 recently for paint and roofing materials.
He said with the city’s revised set of requirements, his electrical costs alone rose from $3,500 to $40,000.
City Attorney John Duval said the plea agreement gives Arvidson the choice to either upgrade the motel or close it if the repairs become too costly.
“It’ll be Mr. Arvidson’s business decision to decide how he wants to proceed from that point,” he said.
In the meantime, Shauna Davis, the Loveland program manager with Neighbor to Neighbor, said she has set up appointments with several of the tenants.
“Neighbor to Neighbor can provide housing counseling and screening for first month rent help through the Step Up program for any family in the community faced with displacement or homelessness.”
But MacDonnell said Cozy Kitchenettes is just one of a series of recent affordable rental closures. She pointed out that the Thrifty Apartments and the Loveland Motel are now shut down, and the proposed Feed and Grain project changed from affordable to market-rate apartments.
“What I’m seeing in Loveland is all of the affordable housing is leaving.”