While a property manager for the Hub extended-stay hotel has been fined $1,000 for a fire code violation, city representatives say they will continue to pursue more charges against the facility, which they maintain operates illegally as a dorm.
On Oct. 5, property manager Christopher Ott pleaded guilty in Sandy Springs Municipal Court to several code violation charges, and was fined for lack of a fire evacuation plan for 120 rooms.
On July 30, the city issued code violations, including: smoke detectors not working or missing, fire extinguisher out of date, fireplaces within the units not sealed, no paperwork to indicate a fire hydrant inspection, locked, dead-bolted exit door for exit to exterior from lobby area, accumulated trash, three inoperable vehicles with expired tags on site, illicit discharge of paint into the storm drain, lack of maintenance on the storm drains with trash and stagnant water present, loose handrails and an unauthorized, dilapidated fence.
City solicitor Bill Riley told the court that after extensive negotiations with Ott, the city now believes the manager does not have the power to make the needed corrections.
“The city’s position has always been that this is a dormitory or student housing space. It was not actually a residential hotel that has been alleged by the ownership,” Riley said, explaining that he thinks the management company that hired Ott brought him in to try and give the facility the appearance of being a hotel when it actually serves as housing for Art Institute of Atlanta students.
“We are satisfied that the defendant believes it is not a hotel either, and he has taken responsibility for his time working there to try to make it a hotel when it was not,” Riley said.
For his part, Ott said he only has the power to enforce fire evacuation plans for the eight rooms that are rented out to the public, not the 120 that house the students. He said the Art Institure has control over those rooms, and that students obtain rooms through the school’s housing authority.
In negotiating for the fine, Riley said Ott agreed to testify truthfully in any other court cases the city might bring against the Hub. He indicated that the city will continue to fine the facility.
“He’s trying to get it into compliance, trying to do the things he’s supposed to do,” said Ott’s attorney, Noah Pines, to the court. “He’s put between a rock and a hard place in trying to get things done and being an employee of somebody else.”
Ott works for WhiteStar Hospitality Management, which was hired by the owner, 6096 Barfield Road LLC.
While Riley indicated that the city may also fine the school for code violations, the Art Institute says it’s trying to get away from the Hub.
“We are working on a plan to vacate students from the Hub,” said school spokeswoman Devra Pransky.
In April, the Board of Zoning Appeals upheld charges by the city staff that the facility was operating as a dorm, which violates its zoning. Nearby residents have said that the tenants are disruptive and have brought crime to the immediate area.
The code violations were issued shortly after a murder of an Art Institute student near the Hub. Patricko Davis, also an Art Institute student, was arrested in California on Aug. 13 in connection with the murder of 23-year-old Takeenen Williams.