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Unicoi BMA denies rezoning request for Budget Inn property

By Richard Rourk

The Town of Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen met Monday, Sept. 20, to discuss and vote on the future of the Budget Inn property, located at 185 Golf Course Drive, Unicoi.

The BMA voted to deny the request from the owner of the property to rezone the property from R-1 low density residential to R-2 medium density residential.

“I went down there this afternoon and there is broken glass all over the parking lot,” said BMA member Judy Ray said. “There is grass growing in the parking lot, windows are out, beds are laying there for anyone to use. I just can’t see how any of these neighbors would approve of what’s going on over there.”

The property has been a point of controversy in the region for several months. The property was shut down on Jan. 8, 2020, when a joint operation, called “Heartbreak Hotel” by the District Attorney’s office and Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department yielded an arrest. In a separate occurrence,  human remains were discovered on the property at the same time the joint operation was launched.

“We had an 8 a.m. briefing on this operation and we received the death call before that meeting,” said Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley on Jan. 8, 2020.

Chad M. Fagan, 36, was discovered deceased on the morning of Jan. 8 before the hotel’s closure.

Hensley announced in January of 2020 that there were 244 calls for law enforcement response at Budget Inn from July 1, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2019. Those calls included 100 related to criminal activity, 58 medical calls, 16 calls that were theft reports, 14 fight calls and 12 domestic violence calls.

The Town of Unicoi BMA is scheduled to meet again on Oct. 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the Unicoi Tourist Information Center.