Even before the Aug. 31 hostage standoff at the that left one man dead, Melanie Snyder was researching criminal activity at the Woodbury motel.
Her findings probably won’t surprise you.
The supplied Snyder with about a year’s worth of reports, and she found that there were 290 calls to the Red Roof Inn between August of 2011 and mid-August this year. The next closest was the Country Inn, with 26.
Snyder has started an online petition to “shut down or change what is happening at the Red Roof Inn,” according to .
Still, “It’s not just about shutting down the Red Roof Inn,” she said in an interview.
“What are we going to do to fix this problem?” Snyder said.
She wants the city to investigate other measures to curtail the criminal activity at the motel—whether that’s extra patrols, changes to its rental procedures or additional security.
Her research found numerous cases of drug problems, warrant arrests, prostitution and domestic incidents.
Snyder said she plans to speak before the Woodbury City Council once the petition has had a chance to gain some traction.
But there’s not much the city can do, Councilman Christopher Burns said.
“This is one of those situations where the city of Woodbury has limited authority,” he said.
Burns said there haven’t been allegations of wrongdoing by Red Roof Inn staff, merely those who rent rooms there.
Yet the city has looked at that area—including the now-defunct Woody’s Roadhouse—as a “prime target for redevelopment,” Burns said.
He acknowledged however, that the city doesn’t have much of a say in what happens in the private sector, citing the vacant State Farm building as an example. “We’re a little bit hamstrung.”
Following an inquiry from Patch, City Administrator Clint Gridley sent out a statement last week:
“The city shares the community’s concerns about the level of criminal activity at the Red Roof Inn. It is our intention to be in contact with the hotel management to seek to improve the situation.
“Many people think the city has broad power when it comes to regulating businesses within our community. In reality, our authority is limited. The comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance identify specific locations for various types of development (e.g., residential, commercial, industrial and retail). The Red Roof Inn is located in the B-1 ‘Office Park’ zoning district and hotels are allowed in this district. It is a privately held business that has been operating in the city since 1981 and is a legal conforming use.
“Meantime, we will continue to use our public safety, code enforcement and community development tools to keep Woodbury a safe community to live, visit and do business.”
A reporter from FOX 9 News asked the Red Roof Inn for a response to the ongoing concerns. A statement from the motel’s public relations firm said, in part: "The vast majority of police calls for service were routine or informational in nature. Red Roof will continue to always put guest and employee safety first."
Snyder said most people are surprised to hear about the crime at the motel, especially juvenile prostitution.
“They don’t think things like this go on in our city, and they do,” she said.
Snyder said the problems there stem from three things: freeway access, exterior rooms that don’t require guests to pass a checkpoint and the fact that people don’t need credit cards to rent a room.
“And a lot of criminals don’t have credit cards,” she said.
Snyder said she would like to see extra patrols at the Red Roof Inn and checks of the guest registry by police.
Burns—who sent his thoughts and prayers go out to the victims—said he, too, fielded calls about that area of Woodbury before the hostage standoff. And while the police department has previously put “heightened attention” on the Red Roof Inn, he also doesn’t want to pester legitimate guests.
“I certainly don’t want to harass the folks that have chosen to stay there,” Burns said.
But he does think the city should have a “critical discussion” about zoning, ordinances, redevelopment, etc., at the site, and said the council may hold a future workshop on the matter, while being cognizant of the ongoing investigations.
“We’re willing to look at it and give it the full attention it deserves,” he said.