North Austin Civic Association

Update: March 7, 2009

Numerous Violations Discovered at Budget Lodge

Serious code violations found in February 19 city inspection

License renewal denied

~by Keith Huntsman

On February 19, the City of Austin descended en masse on the Budget Lodge at 9220 North IH 35. The task force included code inspectors, fire inspectors and police. They found scores of individual violations of city code ranging from structural damage to electrical dangers to plumbing inadequacies to walkway hazards.

Budget Lodge has been denied a license renewal for 2009, and the owner, Larry M. Hall (as 9220 NIH 35, LLC.) has 60 days from February 27 to bring the property into compliance. In the meantime, Budget Lodge is specifically ordered to cease operations as a hotel. Failure to comply can result in a fine of $2000 per violation per day.

The list of violations is impressive both in volume and variety: Missing or damaged guardrails on stairways; exposed, loose or hot wiring; loose and broken concrete on upstairs walkways; damaged and missing sheetrock in public areas, maintenance areas and rooms; leaking boilers; inadequately caulked or secured sinks, showers and toilets; crumbling stucco and fascia on the exterior walls; missing or inoperable smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. And so on. Structural repairs alone would take no fewer than nine building permits, according to the report.

Representatives of the hotel have characterized the violations as "minor issues" and stated that they intend to file an appeal.

Update: February 1, 2008
The Budget Lodge has been operating with its license suspended since October for close to 20 code violations. On January 27, the City of Austin Building and Standards Commission held a hearing on the issue and chose to grant an appeal to lift the suspension. The commission ruled that the owner, Larry Hall, had appeared to make sufficient good faith improvements to warrant the lifting of the suspension.

The lawsuit to close Budget Lodge as a public nuisance is still pending in federal court. Meanwhile, Hall has filed an application for a 2009 operating license.

December, 2008

Austin Files Suit to Close Budget Lodge

~by Keith Huntsman

Request for Temporary Injunction May lead to Permanent Close

On December 1, 2008, the City of Austin filed suit in Travis Count District Court to close down the Budget Lodge at 9220 North IH 35.

The suit names the limited liability company, 9920 N IH 35, LLC, as the owner, and Larry M. Hall as the operator, and calls for the business to be shut down as a public nuisance for a period of one year. The injunction also calls for the closing to become permanent if the conditions there are not remedied in that time.

This action is a direct result of the efforts of the good citizens near IH-35 and Rundberg, represented by North Creek-Georgian Acres NA, NACA, Gracywoods NA and other members of the North Austin Coalition of Neighborhoods (NACN). In the last two years there have been four Marches Against Crime and other neighborhood protests directly targeting the Budget Lodge and four other businesses that have tolerated and even abetted crime in the area. Finally, after years of claiming that there was insufficient 'public outcry', the District Attorney's Office was at long last moved to act.
City Of Austin's Original Petition  (pdf file)

It's About Time….

Since January, 2007, the suit claims, there have been 463 incidents of public nuisance documented at the Budget Lodge, from which over 100 resulted in the generation of a police report. These include "…offenses of: Possession of Controlled Substance, Delivery of Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Possession of Dangerous Drug, Prostitution, Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child, Indecency with a Child by Contact, Retaliation, Aggravated Robbery with a Deadly Weapon and Narcotics Information....", according to paragraph 9 of the suit.

The injunction, when it passes judgment and goes into effect, will allow the city to cut off utilities, prohibit habitation of the property, restrict the use of adjacent public areas such as streets and sidewalks, and chase off or arrest any individuals who try to inhabit or use the property. It will give police in the North Central District all the authority they've wanted to really crack down on the criminal activities that have plagued the area for so long.
Shutting Down the Budget Lodge  (Open letter from Anthony Williams, September 2008)

But the Fight Isn't Over….

Shutting down the business will effectively eliminate the safe haven where drug dealers, prostitutes, gamblers, thieves and perverts of all kinds have long been known to habituate. However, we must remember that this is not the long-term remedy we need to curtail crime in our area.

It is an aggravating fact that if the criminal element is restrained in one place, it moves to another. We, the responsible citizens of North Austin, will therefore need to remain vigilant to ensure that the criminals that are chased out of the Budget Lodge don't simply set up shop somewhere else.

This is a great victory, but the war against crime goes on.