A few renters remain at troubled Gatlinburg motel

Nov. 07, 2013 @ 11:24 PM

The parking lot and rooms of a condemned motel on Ski Mountain Road sat mostly empty Wednesday, but a few residents have not yet moved. That includes some who were given 10 days to leave before the city starts fining them for living in condemned property.

A sign taped to the front door of the house that serves as an office to the Ski Mountain Motel said eviction notices would be handed out starting Wednesday. The sign is undated.

Several of the people still living at the motel-turned-rental-property said the manager was still demanding rent, although the city has cited landlord Stuart Kaplow for renting property that’s been condemned. The person who came to the door of the manager’s office when a reporter knocked referred questions to Kaplow and refused to comment on whether rent was still being charged.

Several of the renters were in court Oct. 23 after city personnel cited them for living in condemned property. At the time, City Judge Jerry McCarter gave them 10 days to move before the city began enforcing fines.

A few of those renters were still present Wednesday. City officials did not return a call that afternoon seeking answers about what action they would take on those who had stayed past the deadline.

Renter Jared Layton said he doesn’t have a job, but his live-in girlfriend does, and he has job interviews this week. Without more income, he said, they haven’t found the money to rent a new place — in part because they had paid a month’s rent shortly before the newest condemnation notices were issued.

Like some other renters at the motel, he said there was a notice on his door when he first came to the place. But, he said, management told him they were working things out with the city, and that he could move into his room.

“It’s wrong what they’re doing to us, but this has been going on for years,” he said.

It’s been several years since the city first put a condemnation notice up on the property, but Kaplow has filed lawsuits in local and federal court attempting to stop the city from moving forward with its plans. City officials typically won’t comment on issues directly related to the litigation.

While Layton hasn’t moved, he said he’d been served with an eviction notice, and hopes to be gone as soon as they have the money to pay a deposit and rent.

Wednesday, he was helping a woman, Mary Medlin, move out.

Medlin’s arms were covered with sores she said came from bed bugs in her room. She had a chair propped against the back door of her room; without that, the door wouldn’t stay closed, much less locked.

Her room had a condemnation notice on the door, although she said she hadn’t been summoned to court yet. She said management at the facility had still been asking for rent despite the notice, and she’d found a place to move in Pigeon Forge.

Other renters on Wednesday included a woman who said she was still paying rent. She said she didn’t know where else she could go on the money she makes from a part-time job at a fast food restaurant.

A man answering another door said his family hoped to move as soon as they can get electricity activated at a new place they rented in Newport.

Some of the motel's remaining rooms had curtains pulled closed, but most didn’t and appeared to be vacant.

It isn’t clear what fate awaits the run-down former motel, but documents filed during the litigation indicate at least one judge has given a go-ahead to bring it all down.

“(The city of Gatlinburg) is fully within its legal rights to enter upon the property and remove or demolish the structures, clean the lot, and remove all debris, and the amount of costs incident to such work shall be a lien against the property,” Chancellor Telford Forgety wrote.

With additional litigation filed in the meantime, it’s not certain whether the city would immediately take that step when the residents are gone.

But with only a handful of people still living there, and almost all actively looking for a new home, the answer could come soon.