City of Kent, business owner frustrated with King County over motel slated to house coronavirus patients

KENT, Wash. – A legal battle between the city of Kent and King County will continue over a controversial choice to house people either infected or recovering from the coronavirus in a motel purchased by the county.

Earlier Friday, a judge denied a temporary restraining order that would have halted work at a motel recently purchased by the county.

A King County spokesperson told Q13 News the motel could be in operation to house people suffering through the coronavirus crisis in a matter of a few days.

But the motel in question shares a property line with Bowen Scarff Ford-Lincoln dealership and the owner worries for the safety of his employees and customers.

The Econo Lodge along Central Avenue North is the largest of four facilities across King County that county health officials say will soon be housing patients either quarantined or isolated over the coronavirus crisis.

The motel was chosen after the county executive declared an emergency earlier this week after learning more and more people were becoming ill or dying from covid-19.

But, Kent city leaders say they were left in the dark over the plans at the motel and were blindsided by the decision.

“There is no reason we should not have been brought into this conversation from the very beginning,” said Mayor Dana Ralph. “It did not happen that way, so we’re trying to make the very best of the situation.”

The city of Kent petitioned a judge to issue a restraining order, forcing progress to stop at the motel but late Friday that was denied.

“This could be really bad,” said Mark Scarff, owner of the city’s Ford dealership.

Scarff says his family business has been in the city of Kent for nearly 65 years and while they love to call the city home they also worry what could happen when the facility opens.

“It really feels like were getting it shoved down Kent’s throat and it’s scary,” he said.

A county spokesperson told Q13 news that after some infrastructure upgrades and other work is complete, patients could begin recovering at the motel in a matter of days.

“We are not convinced there’s a process to keep people that have been exposed to the virus in the facility and the community at large safe,” said Ralph.

Meanwhile, Kent city leaders complain the county avoided obtaining permits to use the site and have yet to fully explain how it plans to ensure patients abide by isolation rules.

“This is not Kent saying not in my back yard, this is Kent saying how do we do this responsibly, so everyone impacted is taken care of and work through this crisis together,” said Ralph.

The city of Kent vows to continue its legal battle to make sure the county gets the proper permits to operate the motel as a quarantine facility.

In a statement, The King County Executive’s office admits it had to take drastic measures to slow the spread of coronavirus and that the Kent motel could help that fight. The statement continued saying even more properties could be acquired in the future to battle the virus’ spread.