Town Council again tables action on Scarborough hotel’s license

The number of police calls to Comfort Inn & Suites in Scarborough has been reduced to 33 per month in April and May. File photo

SCARBOROUGH — The Scarborough Town Council tabled the Comfort Inn license renewal once again with the condition that the applicant continues ramping up new security protocols, employs onsite and licensed counseling services, and remedies numerous life safety hazards brought forward by the fire chief.

“We can’t say that either of those conditions as proposed has been fully met,” said Town Manager Tom Hall. “I think certainly efforts can’t go unnoticed in terms of making significant advancements toward satisfying those conditions, but as we sit here tonight, neither one is fully satisfied.”

“It was an emotional night,” said Town Council Chair John Cloutier. The Scarborough Town Council, which was held on July 20, brought back the action on the renewal request for an Innkeepers License from the Comfort Inn, located at 329 US Route 1. This item was initially tabled at the June 8 Town Council meeting.

Several hotels and motels in Scarborough are being used to supply temporary housing for the homeless or asylum seekers. The Public Safety Department has seen a significant increase in the demand for police, fire, and EMS services at many of these hotels, town officials say. The Comfort Inn on US Route 1 is currently closed for public reservations and functions as a temporary housing unit. Portland’s Opportunity Alliance is funding the cost.

According to a statement sent in by the Scarborough Police Chief, Mark Holmquist, as of July 15, the Scarborough Police Department has received 248 calls for service at the Comfort Inn and Suites since Jan. 1, with a total of 308 offenses generated from those calls.

Many residents of the Comfort Inn and Suites attended on July 20 in person. They took the workshop as an opportunity to discuss their thoughts and feelings about the renewal and what it would mean for them if the license wasn’t renewed. They shared their stories about how having a roof over their head and access to basic necessities like a warm shower has transformed their lives and helped them navigate trauma, addiction, and disease. The denial of the license would result in the 91 current residents becoming displaced and likely requiring housing assistance through the town’s General Assistance program.

Residents who spoke at the podium and stated that since the new owners of the Comfort Inn have gotten rid of the residents using heavy amounts of drugs, it has made the hotel safe again for the residents. Most residents at the hotel said they wouldn’t have stayed in the beginning because the drug use was so bad.

“The owners took action,” said Raul Castrello. The people there are elderly and people that need this place that will be walking the streets if we didn’t have it. Living lives and doing things that I’ve done in the past, and I’m ashamed of having a lengthy criminal history because of drug addiction and lack of housing, and just being on the streets and doing what I had to do. I’m very grateful for this place. I’m very grateful for the owners that have made it a safer place.”

Catherine Peccarero, a resident of the Comfort Inn, emotionally spoke about how the hotel has given her a sense of safety after she lost her last home due to her elderly landlord selling the building.

“I have been homeless;” she said. “I spent my life savings which wasn’t a lot, but it was around $5,000, paying for hotel rooms every night for my grown son and my disabled grandson. We were sleeping in the car. I went and rented a van, and my son works two jobs, and I rented a caravan to sleep in. I never thought that after I retired, I would be in this. I’ve never been homeless in my life, and it’s scary. I feel safe for the first time in months.”

The council was unanimous in its decision to table this item at their Sept 21 meeting.

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