City leaders work to buy off 'nuisance' motel to build park

Leaders consider eminent domain for downtown motel
Posted at 6:59 PM, Jan 20, 2017

City leaders and neighbors want to see a Bayou District motel go.

The Board of Commissioners agreed earlier this month to hire an eminent domain attorney.

They’re trying to purchase property along 57 and 61 W. Tarpon Ave.

There’s a motel and salon there.

The Sunbay Motel is a familiar name to many in the area.

It’s listed in the city’s nuisance properties site created last November that pinpoints recent police calls, code violations and other information about the motel and two others.

The Sunbay Motel had eight service calls to police last month, one for drugs, another for a domestic dispute.

Last August a man shot and killed his neighbor at the motel during an argument.

“I think it's dangerous,” said Darlene Vatikiotis, president for the Villa Plumosa Condo Assoc. just a few blocks from the motel.

She and her neighbors have gone to several commission meetings to ask that something be done about the motel.

“The last thing we want is another homicide,” she said.

The motel also has more than a dozen code violations, according to a letter and the latest city inspection report by the Development Services Department.

Peter Fanoudis, the motel’s owner thinks he’s become a target.

“The most important thing is no one from our neighborhood was bothered from our customers never,” he said, “ever.”

Fanoudis has owned the motel for 15 years.

He points to an apartment building a few blocks from his motel where an officer was shot and killed in 2014 to point out that his motel isn’t the only location where someone’s been killed

“If they take this place what will I do?” he said, “I’m living here.”

He says he’s working to fix the code violations.

City leaders want to buy the property and convert the area into a park as a part of their Downtown/Sponge Docks project.

“It’s not just a park,” said Vatikiotis, “but more of a public events area.”

Fanoudis says he isn’t giving up his motel and has an attorney.

“This is the correct thing?” he said, “to use a place like that and the city needs that just to make a park?, Come on.”