Orca Inn Suites at 5370 Barrett Road received a temporary conditional use permit in February 2016 to operate an extended stay facility. At the time, neighbors and others voiced concern that the nature of the business would attract criminal activity. The Hearing Examiner granted the permit but under several conditions including a mandatory review after 2 years.
But the business got off to a rough start. According to Ferndale Police, they had since responded to 21 calls at that address during 2016 and 2017. Calls ranged from reports of suspicious circumstances to a felony assault call when a drug-related shooting occurred in one of the rooms in November 2016.
In response to the shooting incident, City of Ferndale Community Development Director Jori Burnett sent a letter to Orca Inn Suites Owners Tony and Harjit Dhariwal. In the December 14, 2016 letter, which was included for the Hearing Examiner’s consideration during the 2-year review, Burnett advises the Dhariwals, “compliance with the conditions of the Conditional Use Permit requires more than non-participation by Orca Inn employees; it means that the Orca Inn will not allow a culture of permissiveness for these illegal acts to occur.”
The Dhariwals responded in January 2017 by letter, also included for the Hearing Examiner’s consideration, detailing several steps they had taken to address the City’s concerns. They included,
- Will have an employee onsite 24 hours a day and 7 days a week
- Will not provide guest services without valid identification
- Installed extra interior and exterior security cameras
- Have become very strict and more careful with local identification cards with known drug users
- Secured entry ways with fencing and locked gates
- Posted interior and exterior signs to minimize or eliminate criminal activity
- Have permanently locked outside doors to certain rooms within fenced area
- Will do background check on guests staying a week or more
- Trained staff to recognize indications of drug use and intoxication when checking in guests
In their report for the Hearing Examiner’s review, City staff recommended Orca Inn Suites receive a permanent conditional use permit.
The Hearing Examiner issued the Notice of Decision this week. In it approval of continuing the conditional use permit was given without requiring another two-year review period. “However,” the notice advised, “the City may initiate a review for termination of the Conditional Use at any time, if, in the judgment of the Ferndale Chief of Police or the Ferndale Community Development Director, the use has become a nuisance to the community.”