Property rights are correctly cherished in a free society, but even that bedrock principle cannot keep an eyesore from embarrassing people. In Clark County, one of the worst eyesores has languished for years, unfortunately at one of the most visible locations: the northeast corner of the intersection of Interstate 5 and 78th Street. Many of the countless people who have seen the grossly misnamed Value Motel must’ve thought: “Gee, what a great place for a fine restaurant or modern hotel or both.” Yet the dilapidated, 48-year-old Value Motel refuses to die and lingers as one of our community’s worst blemishes.
Marcus Griffith — more valiant than many of us — spent a night there recently and wrote about his $38 adventure for the Vancouver Voice. His story led county officials to take a closer look at the Value Motel. Perhaps there’s some way to clean it up, make it more presentable and less embarrassing. Maybe the owner can be coaxed to sell the property to someone who can build a more respectable establishment on the site between the freeway and Highway 99. Last Tuesday, Clark County commissioners endorsed Sheriff Garry Lucas’ suggestion to create a community task force that would search for solutions to the eyesore. This is an excellent idea, and participants likely will include representatives of the health department, code enforcement office, fire marshal’s office and law enforcement, plus a citizens’ representative.
But what about the property owner, you ask? Well, it would be great if Milt Brown would also agree to serve on the task force, and Lucas says the invitation will be extended. But Brown’s reluctance in the past to discuss solutions seems to be just as resolute as his refusal to sell the property. Brown isn’t talking to the press, and it’s uncertain if he’ll sit down with a task force.
And that is unfortunate. One would think that when the local sheriff, the health department, fire and law enforcement officers and your neighbors want to talk to you about your property, that would be a meeting worth attending. Apparently not so for the reclusive Mr. Brown.
One would also think that a few county-approved incentives would help. Last year, commissioners approved an incentives package for redevelopment of Highway 99 and surrounding areas. Wouldn’t it be great if the long-overdue demise of the Value Motel triggered an accelerated improvement of the highway through Hazel Dell to Salmon Creek? So far, though, that’s just the stuff of dreams. The Value Motel ranks No. 4 among the most-frequented addresses for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, and the other three addresses are near the motel, along Highway 99.
Lucas and the county commissioners aren’t the only praiseworthy individuals in this issue. Bud Van Cleve is more than just the president of the Northeast Hazel Dell Neighborhood Association; he’s also one of the most trusted and experienced community activists in the area. He said the Value Motel problem has “been a bad deal for a long time, and it should not have come to this point. It should have been cleaned up.” Bud’s right, and we’d like to think any endeavor that enlists his help is destined for a pleasant outcome.
We’d also like to believe the Value Motel is on its last legs and that the crime problems in and around it can be remedied. As County Commissioner Steve Stuart said, “ultimately our goal is to make (the property) more profitable to either upgrade or replace the Value Motel.”
Let’s hope the sheriff’s task force gets the ball rolling.