With homeless families in mind, Gwinnett city tweaks motel regulations

Motel 6 at 5395 Peachtree Industrial Boulevard is one of many hotels, motels and extended-stay hotels in Norcross now under new ordinances to improve safety. (Courtesy of Motel 6)
Motel 6 at 5395 Peachtree Industrial Boulevard is one of many hotels, motels and extended-stay hotels in Norcross now under new ordinances to improve safety. (Courtesy of Motel 6)

The city of Norcross tweaked this week its new extended stay motel ordinance, removing a length of stay restriction that had left some residents concerned about the possible effect on families that would otherwise be homeless.

Norcross police Chief Bill Grogan has said that one out of every three "major" crimes in the city happens at one of its 14 hotels, and the ordinance passed in December is aimed at helping curb that trend. New regulations, believed to be the first of their kind in Gwinnett County, included requirements for things like functional video surveillance systems, adequate lighting and stricter vehicle rules.

A small group of residents, however, voiced their concerns that another part of the ordinance — which put in place strict guidelines governing how long anyone could stay at the city’s motels and hotels — would have an unintended consequence. Exact numbers for the city of Norcross are hard to come by, but extended stay motels are popular destinations for needy families who can’t afford to stay anywhere else.

Gwinnett County Public Schools has around 1,100 students that are considered homeless, and many of them live in such hotels and motels.

The City Council removed the length of stay restrictions from the ordinance during its Monday night meeting.

“The revised ordinance removes all limitations on lengths of stay at local extended-stay facilities with an exception of hourly rates,” Norcross City Manager Rudolph Smith said in a statement. “While meeting the needs of our community and citizens, the amended ordinance still allows for the ability to serve its purpose of deterring and lowering crime rates at local extended-stay facilities.”

Kathleen Allen, one of the Norcross residents who led the charge against the length of stay restrictions, said Wednesday she was “delighted” and “really appreciative” of the council’s quick decision.

“They were looking at this from a crime reduction and safety perspective, and just didn’t understand the impact on these stakeholders, and the number of people who reside long-term in these places,” she said.

Allen and other residents who spoke out against the tenancy restrictions were supportive of the ordinance’s overall mission. The Norcross Police Department is expected to start enforcing the new law sometime in the first quarter of this year.