Since my appointment and later election to the McKenzie City Council, I have made it my mission to work with city officials to make McKenzie a safe place to live and raise children. Now as my third …
Matter of Opinion
The Old Motel Has to Go
By Jason R. Martin
Since my appointment and later election to the McKenzie City Council, I have made it my mission to work with city officials to make McKenzie a safe place to live and raise children. Now as my third year comes to a close, in my opinion, I feel there is a significant safety concern approximately 700 yards from my front door.
My increased anxiety draws from the ever-increasing criminal activity taking place at the former McKenzie Inn, now Avery Properties. The worries of myself and the constituency have increased to a point of apprehension for the safety of my neighborhood, Richardson Subdivision.
Therefore, as the councilman representing Ward-2, I have asked Mayor Holland, Police Chief Moates and City Attorney Laura Keeton to declare the former motel a public nuisance and safety hazard.
On Monday, September 21, I requested the numbers of calls and arrests made regarding the former McKenzie Inn/Avery Properties in the last two years. Chief Moates provided the following information from the time frame of January 1, 2018, to September 22, 2020:
86 calls with the name McKenzie Inn, Value Inn, Avery Properties. Some may be traffic stops that took place on/near the property but were landmarks for recording purposes.
37 charges on 15 people from the property who were living or staying with someone.
10 were felony charges;
25 were misdemeanor charges;
2 were infractions/cites or additional moving violations.
Chief Moates added, “We have issued several “ban,” notices to people at the “Inn” but they (Inn) will rescind those and then it gets complicated - we will not enforce “ban” notices on people they let back on the property and then want to re-ban. We do not use “ban,” notices to evict people from their rooms.”
As a parent and resident, I worry daily about what will happen next. Within the last few months, there was a drive-by shooting, multiple drug possession arrests, child neglect, and an assault and kidnapping charge.
I’m not going to pretend to know much about declaring a business a public nuisance, but if there ever was a reason for the City of McKenzie to declare a business a nuisance this facility is it. By definition, a “public nuisance is an unreasonable, unwarranted, or unlawful interference with a right common to the general public. The sheer number of people affected does not transform a private nuisance into a public one—rather, the public must be affected in a manner specifically prohibited by your city’s or state’s laws. In general, public nuisances threaten a community’s health, safety, or overall welfare. Common types of public nuisance include pollution, drug activity, explosives storage, and possession of dangerous animals.
“Under most public nuisance laws, individuals cannot seek to stop the activity, unless an exception under state or local law applies. Due to the nature of public nuisances, under most laws, only a public agency can stop the activity. In some areas, certain public nuisances are classified as criminal offenses, meaning that a city attorney or other public official may pursue criminal charges and penalties.”
I have been assured by Mayor Holland, the City of McKenzie is working on declaring the property a nuisance. According to the mayor, the city attorney will produce an ordinance based on the Tennessee Code Annotated that will send a business deemed a nuisance to city court versus state court. This streamlines the process and leads to quicker results. The proposed ordinance should be available for first reading in October and possibly take effect on second reading in November.
When the property was purchased by Avery Properties, they were allowed to operate in “good faith” by the City of McKenzie.
The city can and should be able to shut down the business without drafting or enforcing a new public nuisance ordinance.
As a voting member of the McKenzie Regional Planning Commission, it has come to my attention that the area in which the property is located is zoned as B-2 (business district) thus the campus is not permitted for apartments/residential uses and can not be appealed within the City of McKenzie, according to the Municipal Zoning Ordinance.
It is my professional opinion the residents of McKenzie must take a stance and demand changes to Avery Properties (formerly McKenzie Inn). This business brings few benefits to McKenzie, many detriments.
Let me be clear, not everyone staying at this location is a criminal, but the actions of a few reflect on the masses.
In most instances, I feel it is in poor taste to air grievances or concerns in a public forum.
In this instance, I want the people of McKenzie and Richardson Subdivision to know I too am concerned and demand a solution to the problem of the crime-riddled property.
I want everyone to know that I will not rest until we have a solution to our problem. Let me encourage the people of McKenzie to not take this lightly.
As a reminder, I represent all of McKenzie, not just Ward-2. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at the McKenzie Banner office at 731-352-3323 or firstname.lastname@example.org.