MERRILLVILLE | A recent incident at a Merrillville motel has contributed to the need for an ordinance that would limit the length of time people could rent rooms at town hotels and motels, Merrillville officials said.
During a Tuesday Town Council workshop session, Merrillville fire officials said there was a fire within the last two weeks at the Deluxe Inn, 732 E. 82nd Ave.
Fire Marshal Phil Topor said a family was living in the room where the fire originated. Topor said there were several mattresses and two cribs in the room. There were no injuries during the fire, which was accidental. But Topor believes it could have been fatal if the occupants were asleep because of all the items blocking the walking paths in the room.
In February, Topor presented a proposed ordinance to address safety issues of people living in hotel and motel rooms that aren’t designed to meet the needs of occupants wanting to rent them for an extended time.
He has explained situations in which people have lived in hotel rooms for as long as six years. There have been incidents in which people have rented a block of rooms and cut holes in walls between them to make one large living space, Topor said.
Town Councilman Shawn Pettit said it’s possible tearing apart walls could expose others to danger if the walls collapse.
“We don’t need this in town,” Pettit said.
The proposed ordinance would permit people to rent rooms in hotels and motels not designed for extended living for no more than 30 consecutive days or 60 total days within a consecutive 180-day period.
Topor said people have brought in makeshift stoves and other cooking devices to prepare food in short-stay rooms. The ordinance also would limit the type of cooking devices permitted in short-stay rooms.
Town officials said they understand situations, including employment opportunities, often create a need for temporary living situations, and there are extended-stay hotels and motels available in Merrillville.
The proposed ordinance would set the rental time limit at 365 days for extended-stay rooms.
Town Attorney John Bushemi said municipalities across the country have adopted similar ordinances to address the safety concerns of people living in hotel and motel rooms not equipped for an extended stay.
Bushemi continues to review the measure proposed by Topor, and it could go before the council for initial approval during its April 28 meeting.
Town officials said the ordinance isn’t targeting a specific hotel or motel in Merrillville. Topor said he has noticed issues at three or four facilities in town.