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City switches approach to address Hallmark Inn issues

– The city of Fort Wayne has abandoned its efforts to conduct an emergency condemnation of the Hallmark Inn.

On Wednesday, city officials announced they had vacated their emergency condemnation order, making a court hearing unnecessary, and instead would seek condemnation through the normal, administrative hearing process.

Last week, Neighborhood Code ordered the extended-stay motel on the city’s eastern edge to close and gave its 50-plus residents 24 hours to get out.

But the owners of the motel at 3730 E. Washington Blvd. challenged the directive in Allen Circuit Court and won an order delaying the condemnation until after a hearing had been held.

Officials said at the time that the motel was unsafe for habitation, with stairwells, balconies and parts of the foundation in a significantly deteriorated state.

“The repairs they have made have been substandard,” Cindy Joyner, deputy director of Neighborhood Code, said last week. “At this point, we feel like we don’t have any other recourse than to move through the condemnation process for the health and safety of the people there.”

The law allows the city to skip the administrative process in an emergency to protect health and safety, but attorneys for motel owner Rajesh Patel argued that no emergency existed since the city waited 20 days after an engineer inspected the building and eight days after it got the engineer’s written report before it issued its emergency order.

“The (city’s) own documents establish that no emergency exists in this case,” Patel’s attorneys wrote in their petition to the court. “… If there were an imminent threat it does not follow that the Respondent would allow nine days from the time it received the (engineer’s) report to the imposition of the requirement vacating the property.”

City officials said they will continue their assessment of the Hallmark Inn, and that if necessary improvements aren’t made to the motel in a reasonable period of time, the city will take further action because the building has serious safety issues that need to be addressed.