Sunshine Motel closes, residents forced out with little notice

Former 'Family Inn' in East Knoxville closes, residents forced out

Posted:
Sixteen residents living at the Sunshine Motel on Rutledge Pike, formerly known as the "Family Inn," were told Tuesday morning to vacate the property by the afternoon. Sixteen residents living at the Sunshine Motel on Rutledge Pike, formerly known as the "Family Inn," were told Tuesday morning to vacate the property by the afternoon.
The residents say they were only made aware of their eviction Tuesday morning, after KUB threatened to shut off the power because the hotel managers couldn't pay the bills. The residents say they were only made aware of their eviction Tuesday morning, after KUB threatened to shut off the power because the hotel managers couldn't pay the bills.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - More than a dozen residents living at an East Knoxville motel were told to vacate the building Tuesday morning and had just hours to leave before it was closed down.  

Sixteen residents living at the Sunshine Motel on Rutledge Pike, formerly known as the "Family Inn," were told Tuesday morning to vacate the property by the afternoon.  

Knoxville city officials say the motel's owner, Chris Burkhart of Rock Pointe Development L.L.C., told them he plans to demolish the building he purchased in 2011.

6 News first learned about the story when a viewer and motel resident contacted us.

The residents say they were only made aware of their eviction Tuesday morning, after KUB threatened to shut off the power because the hotel managers couldn't pay the bills.  

Tuesday morning around 10:00 a.m., crews began removing windows and a fence around the hotel. Residents were given no reason and no indication what was going on.  

"I pay my rent. My rent is paid off. I shouldn't get evicted because people don't pay their bills at hotels. That's just nonsense," said former Sunshine resident Sutton Woodward.  

The CAC says they told KUB to hold off shutting off the power until it could help the residents.  

Staff members went door-to-door, in some cases being the first to inform those who live there they had to go.  

"A couple of folks that were elderly, we had folks that had disability. Many of them on fixed incomes, we had only family that was living here," said Misty Goodwin with CAC.  

The agency is paying more than $3,000 to pay for a one week stay for the residents at the Days Inn hotel off Asheville highway.  

John Coolidge lived at Sunshine Motel for a year and a half, and was recently treated for colon cancer.

He says staying at the new hotel will be too costly.

"I just noticed it's $199 dollars a week. I don't have that kind of money. I'm on fixed income from Social Security," said Coolidge.  

Residents just paid for their entire month's rent last week, but were told they may not get reimbursed.

"That don't make me feel good. It wouldn't make anyone feel good," said former Sunshine resident David Blankembesker.    

Sunshine manager Christi Wilbanks told us she found out about the demolition Tuesday morning, the same time residents learned of their fate.  

Wilbanks has managed the hotel property since October 2013, and says she lost thousands of dollars trying to operate it.  

The City of Knoxville Codes Enforcement department has had six complaints about the motel since 2004.  

Two were about infestation problems, but the city says management provided a proof of ongoing pest control efforts after an inquiry from an inspector.  

Four have been for structural issues.  

Chris Burkhart, who bought the hotel property in 2011, also owns several properties nearby under different company names.  

Burkart did not return our calls for comment.

The CAC says they will continue to help 16 displaced residents as needed, even if they can't find anywhere to live after their one week hotel stay is over.

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