The City of Medford is looking at possible code violations on the site of the Sam Jennings building. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Bob Pennell

Medford business owners cite increase in scrutiny by the city

City officials have placed a target on the Sam Jennings building, known as "The Alamo," because of a number of code violations, including "aesthetic issues."

"We're getting harassed by them," said Daniel Reisinger, whose family owns the Jennings property on Riverside Avenue, which sits adjacent to the new Lithia Motors headquarters and two new city parks. "It's like a witch hunt — they're trying to single us out."

The Medford City Council discussed "code violations" at the business on Thursday but didn't describe them in any detail, though police and fire officials are preparing a report on the violations that will be presented to the owners next week.

Reisinger, noting that his family has rebuffed offers for the property because they were too low, said he suspects the city is concocting deals behind closed doors to obtain ownership.

The Sam Jennings Co. Inc., at the corner of North Riverside Avenue and Fourth Street, has about a dozen employees who make deliveries, repair heavy equipment and specialize in repairing brakes, clutches and hydraulic systems.

The family says it is one of the oldest businesses in town.

City Attorney Kevin McConnell said he couldn't describe the exact violations because they are being investigated. He suggested the violations could end up being addressed in court.

Medford police Sgt. Ben Lytle said a meeting will be held next week with the property owner to see whether the issues can be resolved.

He said the city was investigating code violations that included "aesthetic issues" and issues regarding a business next to a busy roadway, referring to Riverside Avenue.

Mayor Gary Wheeler said he didn't want the city to appear too heavy-handed, but said, "We enforce our rules elsewhere."

After the meeting, Wheeler confirmed that he had initiated one of many complaints against the Jennings property.

He said the issue was brought up during the council meeting partly because of the accusations from the family.

"We wanted to inform the council, because he's accusing us of behind-closed-door activities, and that's just not the case," Wheeler said.

He said the city is winding down its work on The Commons, a redevelopment project that includes two new parks and the Lithia headquarters.

"I don't object to the business being there," he said.

Reisinger, who runs the business, said he'd heard from other city officials that the complaints had come directly from the mayor.

He said the fire marshal had been through the building on previous occasions but suddenly determined the doors weren't up to fire code.

"A year ago, he said it was OK," Reisinger said. "He said it was OK three weeks ago. Then, two days ago, he said we needed to change the door."

Reisinger said he explained to city officials that the Jennings family has been doing exactly the same thing in the same building since 1923.

His mother, Elaine Reisinger, said she doesn't think it's fair the city is singling out her business when other businesses in Medford could face citations if they were scrutinized zealously.

"I agree that we don't look like we belong next to Lithia, but we were there first," she said.

Jennings said she's had only verbal discussions about selling the family property to Lithia.

"I'm a very reasonable person," she said. "I've never once received a written offer from anyone."

She said her family wouldn't accept just any offer because the price of land has been going up recently.

"I know other people surrounding us who have gotten a very good price for their property," Reisinger said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow him on Twitter at @reporterdm.

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