Residents appeal City’s decision to allow restaurant on Oak Street

Photos of proposed menu items bracket a rendering of the Roost, a 150-seat restaurant planned for Oak Street, on the windows of the former Deluxe Dry Cleaner and Launderette.

Photos of proposed menu items bracket a rendering of the Roost, a 150-seat restaurant planned for Oak Street, on the windows of the former Deluxe Dry Cleaner and Launderette.

Not happy with City Hall, four Riverside residents who live near a proposed Oak Street restaurant filed a petition for “writ of certiorari” – or “order for judicial review” – to review zoning changes approved by the City of Jacksonville’s Planning Commission, Land Use and Zoning Committee and City Council.

The petitioners – Kevin Pettway, Jennifer Wolfe, Nancy Murrey-Settle and Fred Pope – are appealing the City’s decision to approve the Planned Unit Development which would allow two local restaurateurs, Ted Stein and J.C. Demetree, to build a 150-seat bar/restaurant on Oak Street between Copeland and Osceola Streets. The petition was filed with the Circuit Court in the Fourth Judicial Circuit on July 20, 2016 by Barry Bobek, attorney for the plaintiffs.

Almost a year ago Stein and Demetree began exploring the idea of a neighborhood gathering place, and settled on a plan to renovate the former Deluxe Dry Cleaner and Launderette, owned by Anthony Saleeba, whose family had operated the cleaning establishment at that location until the mid-1990s. The proposed restaurant, The Roost, would open at 7 a.m. and close at 11 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays, midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

Despite the plaintiffs’ arguments that the area is a historical Residential Character Area and that the majority of the buildings are homes, all three quasi-legislative bodies saw fit to approve the PUD (2016-55).

The Planning Commission was the first to approve the bill, unanimously, on March 17. The bill then went before Land Use and Zoning (LUZ) at a 14-hour Special Hearing, which took place over two non-concurrent evenings, and was approved 5-2 on May 9. City Council approved the PUD on May 24, in a 13 to 5 vote.

Less than a week after the petition was filed, Judge Kevin Blazs was assigned to the case, and could take six months to review it.

“But, the judge should not matter,” Bobek said in an email. “We have an abundance of good Circuit judges. The facts are what matter.”

Stein remains positive the outcome of the petition will work in The Roost’s favor. As a resident of Riverside, he said he wants to be part of a new wave of rebuilding an old community.

“We have seen that Kevin Pettway has appealed the City’s decision to replace the dilapidated Deluxe dry cleaner with a café that revives a historical building. The city’s leadership saw a vision of a progressive Jacksonville and voted with an overwhelming majority to support entrepreneurs and eliminate blighted buildings,” said Stein in an email to The Resident. “Out of the box thinking is what makes cities great, and the re-urbanization of neighborhoods is the direction that growing cities are taking. The Roost is excited to be a part of this process and look forward to opening our doors soon. Fresh food in a funky atmosphere is coming to Oak St. We believe it is not if, but when. Look forward to serving the neighborhood shortly.”

Although Riverside Avondale Preservation did not join the appeal, the nonprofit’s greater concern is “a risk of precedent, and how the rezoning decision might affect future applications of the Overlay, which had been carefully negotiated (with developer input) and approved in 2008,” according to RAP in its April newsletter to its members.

“Without the total moral, emotional, and financial support of the Riverside community, none of this would have been possible,” said Pettway, about the appeal. “The people living in the neighborhood surrounding the site of this ill-advised project have been utterly steadfast in their encouragement, assistance, and love for where they live. They need to be recognized for that.”

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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