City of Taunton suing hotel operators for nonpayment of fines, housing too many migrants

TAUNTON, Mass. — The City of Taunton is suing the operators of the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center for nonpayment of fines due to code violations for housing too many migrants at the property.

Mayor Shaunna O’Connell said city officials received no advance notice when they learned in April 2023 that the hotel at 700 Myles Standish Boulevard began housing 18 migrant families.

A short time later, the entire hotel became occupied by more than 100 families “and ceased operating as a hotel,” and city regulators quickly became concerned that the hotel was operating greatly above its occupancy limits, O’Connell said.

“Within a couple of months, the hotel had converted entirely to an emergency shelter and housed approximately 445 people at any given time,” the mayor said in a statement Thursday. “We later discovered that the Clarion Hotel had signed a contract with the state to utilize the hotel as an emergency shelter for upwards of 9 years.”

“As this was a contract between the state and a private business (the hotel), the city was given no advance notice nor an opportunity to express our concerns about this contract,” O’Connell said.

When the city’s Building Commissioner became concerned that the occupancy of the guest suites had exceeded the design occupant load, hotel management failed to address these concerns, O’Connell said.

The city began issuing a daily fine, pursuant to state law, to prompt the hotel to comply with safety requirements, she said.

Ultimately, the hotel was fined $114,600 from May 26, 2023 to September 18, 2023, O’Connell said. No fines have been paid to date. The lawsuit, filed on Dec. 11, 2023 in Bristol Superior Court, seeks payment of the fines.

In a statement, a Choice Hotels spokesperson said, “Choice Hotels does not own or operate this property. The franchised property left the Choice Hotels’ system on May 19, 2023.”

The Clarion Hotel in Taunton is owned and operated by six different limited liability companies, according to the lawsuit: 700 Taunton LLC of Lexington; BJT Hotel LLC of Canton; MOKSHA2009 LLC of San Antonio, Texas, which has an office in Quincy; Ekta Meshva Hospitality of Taunton LLC of Quincy; Dhruva & Dil Investment LLC of Taunton; and Shivani Inc., a New Hampshire corporation with an office in Lexington. Boston 25 is reaching out for comment.

“The hotel owner’s architect eventually provided some documentation that the building may be compliant with elements of life safety despite the increased occupancy numbers. That documentation prompted the Building Department to cease issuance of daily fines. However, when the hotel delayed in applying for a building permit and submitting a code review to alter the occupancy certificate, the fines resumed,” the mayor said.

The city ceased issuing fines related to overcapacity when the hotel finally complied with the building code and submitted the required documentation.

O’Connell said the influx of migrants “has impacted our city in a variety of ways,” including putting a strain on emergency municipal services.

“We lost the only hotel available in our city (located in our Industrial Park) which has impacted business travel to our area,” the mayor said. “We have seen an increase in the number of emergency calls and we have had to accommodate an increased number of students in our schools.”

“We have also not received approximately $63,000 in meals and hotel taxes, which we hope the state will reimburse,” O’Connell said. “While we are not unsympathetic to migrants fleeing unstable conditions in other countries, we have limited resources available and many residents in need, including seniors and veterans, who require services and housing. We continue to call upon the federal government to provide assistance to our state and our city.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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