An emergency hearing on the prosecutor’s request to close the Augusta Lodge, where authorities have been called out on complaints more than 200 times so far this year, ended in a draw Tuesday.
District Attorney Natalie Paine filed the petition to close the hotel at 1520 Gordon Highway under the state law that allows for a property to be shut down if it is found to be a public nuisance.
Owner Richmond Peng, who was served with notice of Tuesday’s hearing in Richmond County Superior Court only on Monday night, asked Judge Daniel J. Craig for time to hire an attorney to represent him in the civil case.
Craig granted a continuance. He said he would allow Peng to keep the hotel open in the meantime if he hired off-duty certified police officers to be there 24/7. If there’s any violation of the requirement, Craig told Peng he would have the hotel padlocked.
Paine said Tuesday that she twice warned Peng about the extensive number of criminal acts at the Augusta Lodge, last November and again on June 16.
The day after the last warning, another man was arrested for illegal drug possession at the hotel, she said. Other drug arrests there occurred June 27 and July 2. The latest drug arrest that resulted in an indictment occurred Sept. 16.
Since Jan. 1, there have been more than 200 calls to the Augusta Lodge, according to the Richmond County Sheriff Office’s database that Paine used to check the address for the hotel. In comparison, a hotel not far from the Augusta Lodge had fewer than 100 calls during the same period, she said.
There has been a substantial number of arrests for drugs and violent crimes at the hotel, Paine said. The hotel at the corner of Gordon Highway and Highway 25 is only about 35 feet from the road, she said.
Peng said he bought the hotel sight unseen in October 2015, thinking operating a hotel would be an easy job after a career in woodworking. He has tried to increase security by installing a security system with video cameras, and he wants to add a gate to try to control the coming and going of patrons and others who might just be visiting, Peng said.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.