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McKenzie Business Owner Opens Up About Assault, Building Condemnation


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McKENZIE (July 9) — A McKenzie business owner is fighting for his right to continue operating his business downtown after the City of McKenzie condemned his building while he was recovering at home from an aggravated assault and robbery that happened in November 2023.

Jack Martin, 93, owner of Jack Martin Jewelry, located on Cedar Street in McKenzie has been working nights with help from construction workers to repair his building after bricks fell from it earlier this year.

Martin says the extreme cold snap caused the mortar to crumble which resulted in bricks falling from the building.

The City of McKenzie gave him three options:

  1. Martin could tear it down and leave it empty.
  2. The city would tear it down (and take ownership of it).
  3. He could tear it down and rebuild.

Martin chose to tear it down and rebuild. He has been working daily on his building with help from friends and a construction crew to rebuild the building stronger than it was before.

He says he’s used stronger wood than was there previously, poured a new concrete foundation, reinforced the structure, and is adding metal siding that matches the building adjacent to it, which he also owns.

Martin also said that despite the effort and progress he’s made on the structure, McKenzie Codes Officer Jim Seaton has continued to visit him and inform Martin the city will “lock the doors on his business” and/or “tear down his building.”

Martin said witnesses have been present during some of Seaton's visits.

The public notice that was published in The McKenzie Banner on April 16, 2024 read, “City of McKenzie Ruling/Order. Hearing was held March 25, 2024: City of McKenzie vs. Owners of property located at Cedar Street, McKenzie, Tennessee 38201, Parcel 9, Group M, of Tax Map 12L believed to be addressed as 2368 Cedar Street. This cause came to be heard on March 25, 2024, by the below hearing officer. This cause was initiated by the City of McKenzie alleging a violation of City Ordinance section 13-201 involving slum clearance of the center section of the commercial building. Present at the hearing of March 25, 2024, was Codes Consultant Jim Pillow on behalf of the City of McKenzie. The following property maintenance committee members were also in attendance: Police Chief Ryan White, Fire Chief Brian Tucker, and City Recorder Jennifer Waldrup. Codes Officer Jim Seaton was not in attendance due to sickness. Jack and Shirley Martin the property owners were not in attendance. The hearing officer finds that all interested parties were properly notified before said hearing pursuant to proper notice as required. The hearing officer finds that the City of McKenzie has carried its burden of proof under the ordinance and that there is a basis for a finding of unfitness under section 13-209. The owners have sixty days (60) days from April 17, 2024, to pull the proper permits and repair or demolish the center section of the structure. Any possible appeal, in accordance with Section 13-211, of this order, must be within sixty (60) days after the posting and service of this order of the public officer. Jennifer Waldrup, Hearing Officer. THIS INSTRUMENT WAS PREPARED BY JIM PILLOW, Master Code Professional, Certified Building Official, Certified Fire Marshall”

According to Martin, McKenzie Mayor Ryan Griffin, City Recorder Jennifer Waldrup and Codes Officer Jim Seaton visited Martin after the condemnation meeting to compel him to sign a document stating that he received a letter notifying him of the condemnation hearing.

Martin signed the document but says he had no prior knowledge of the condemnation meeting, and was not able to attend because he was recovering at home from the November assault.

After Seaton paid Martin another visit on Tuesday afternoon, Martin drove to The McKenzie Banner to share his story with the citizens of McKenzie.

Martin has a long history of owning businesses and working in other businesses. He once owned a car dealership downtown and also worked at the former Tri-County Motors in downtown with J.W. Atkins, Sr. Then, he worked at Gary Simmons’s automotive dealership and was one of the top salesmen. He feels he has invested his time and service in McKenzie, but now he is faced with the fact that the city wants to condemn and tear down his building.

Martin does not want to lose his business or his building. He says that after his wife died 10 years ago, coming downtown to open his business and see his friends is what he looks forward to every day. It gives him something to do instead of sitting at home.

The 93-year-old man, who fought off a 32-year-old burglar last November was unwavering in his recount of the events that have transpired up until this point; but when talking about the prospect of not being able to spend time with his friends in the space he’s owned for decades downtown tears started to form in the corner of his eyes.

Martin credits his survival of the attack to McKenzie Police Department’s quick response and life-saving measures. He believes that the burglar intended to kill him.

The November attack has left Martin with mobility issues. He cannot stand for long periods and walking is painful. During the struggle, Martin’s attacker threw him to the ground, and Martin is still being treated for the resulting injury to his back.

However, while showing The Banner the updates to his building, he walked on his own as he pointed out key pieces of the construction progress.

Martin says he just wants to operate his business downtown, see his friends and be left alone.

He hopes that sharing his story will help shed light on what is happening and halt the condemnation process while he tries to rebuild.

The Banner sent the following request for comment to the city: 

"The Banner is requesting a comment from the City of McKenzie regarding the condemnation hearing and subsequent visits from City of McKenzie officials to Jack Martin Jewelry. Jack Martin stated that even though he has been working to rebuild the building in question, Codes Officer Jim Seaton has continued to visit him alleging the city is going to tear down Jack's building.  In the public notice that was published in the newspaper on April 16, 2024, it states that Jack Martin was not present for the condemnation hearing on March 25, 2024.  Can you provide proof that Jack Martin was provided a certified letter prior to the meeting? Also, where was the notice of meeting and agenda for the March 25 meeting published?"

McKenzie Mayor Ryan Griffin responded the following day: 
"Regarding the matter involving Mr. Jack Martin and his property at 2368 Cedar Street, the City of McKenzie has asked the City Attorney to review this matter; moreover, the City of McKenzie is not going to take any further action on Mr. Martin’s property until such time as the City Attorney has been able to review this matter and provide guidance to the City moving forward.  The City will not take any steps to enforce any action against Mr. Martin’s property until further notice.
As to your questions posed:
  1. Mr. Seaton, as Codes Enforcement Officer, has made visits to Mr. Martin’s property, like any other property going through the condemnation process, in efforts to check the status of his efforts regarding his property. It was the City’s prior understanding that Mr. Martin was going to tear down the middle section of the building in question; however, the City was not made aware of Mr. Martin’s efforts to rebuild his building until recently.
  2. As to the agenda and meeting notice, there is a listing of board meetings published inside City Hall that sets out when meetings like the Condemnation Board will meet each month at McKenzie City Hall.  A specific agenda (attached) was not published for this meeting as the property owner’s having business before the Board were notified by City Codes Officer, Jim Seaton, that their presence was required at the meeting. In Mr. Martin’s case, Mr. Seaton hand-delivered Mr. Martin’s paperwork pertaining to condemnation, but did not obtain a signed receipt from him at the time of delivery.
  3. Finally, as to the assertion of myself, Ms. Jennifer Waldrup, and Mr. Jim Seaton visiting Mr. Martin to “compel” him to sign a document, that is not accurate.  The visit was to meet structural engineers from TLM (attached) for them to inspect Mr. Martin’s building and to provide guidance."

Jack Martin provided the following response to this comment from the city: 

He said that he was asked to sign a paper after the condemnation meeting. 

Martin stated that the city said they were going to get someone to inspect his building for over a month now, and it still has not been inspected.

He says, "I am willing to do whatever I need to do to fix the building and bring it up to code." He added that he would spare no expense to repair his building right. He also said, "surely the building inspector would see the work that has been done and see that it is good work."

A witness to the visits from Codes Officer Jim Seaton was present at Jack Martin Jewelry today and confirmed that Seaton had made multiple visits to the building and had talked to the construction workers. 

Martin is seeking legal assistance from any licensed Tennessee attorney willing to file an injunction and represent him.

Contact information for the City of McKenzie

Information provided on the City of McKenzie's website, https://www.mckenzietn.org/

City Hall's phone numbers are 731-352-2332 and 731-352-2292. Hit 4 to get to City Government.

For new builds, additions, remodeling contact Ricky Watkins. Ricky Watkins Building Inspector 731-609-8326

If you are located in the Historic District, please contact Jennifer Waldrup for any questions about renovations.  Jennifer Waldrup Historic District Coordinator 731-352-2292   jennifer.waldrup@cityofmckenzie.com

For Building Permits, Jim Seaton in City Hall.  Hit 4 to get to City Government. Jim Seaton Property Maintenance Codes 731-415-7553 

The City of McKenzie has adopted the international maintenance codes for property and yard maintenance.

The City of McKenzie has adopted design guidelines for commercial properties. Please contact City Hall or Ricky Watkins for questions concerning this.

Mayor Ryan Griffin 731-352-2292  ryan.griffin@cityofmckenzie.com