Community Opposition Remains for Southbank Self-Storage Mixed-Use

Community Opposition Remains for Southbank Self-Storage Mixed-Use
A rendering of the thrice-revised development featuring retail, self-storage and residential units intended for space at Hendricks Avenue and Prudential Drive.

Residents of San Marco spoke in continued opposition to the PUD rezoning request for a mixed-use project featuring self-storage at Hendricks Avenue and Prudential Drive during a city council meeting Tuesday, March 26.

Community Opposition

Residents aren’t alone in their opposition. On March 5, the Urban Core Citizens Planning Advisory Committee (CPAC) submitted a letter to the Jacksonville City Council opposing the rezoning. The letter read, in part:

“It is the belief of the Urban Core CPAC that the development of a 10-story, ‘mixed-use’ building overwhelmingly devoted to public storage units, requiring numerous levels of public incentives, will not further the stated goals of the Downtown Overlay but will only serve to set a counterproductive precedent for future Downtown development deals.”

The letter stated the proposed structure’s scale “is grossly out of proportion” to its neighboring structures and “will forever distort the fabric of this key intersection.” It continued that the development would negate “previously, publicly funded efforts to promote business-friendly walkability at this gateway to the Southbank Riverwalk.”

The Urban Core CPAC also submitted a similar letter of opposition to the Downtown Development Review Board (DDRB), the Land Use and Zoning Committee and their respective chairs stating, in part: “Self-storage facilities are not listed as an approved development and are therefore prohibited. Inclusion of such a storage facility as the predominant use within a mixed-use development does not alter that fact.”

Both letters were signed by Bryant Schumaker, chair for the Urban Core CPAC.

In its March newsletter, San Marco Preservation Society (SMPS) issued the following statement:

“Although there have been some changes to the project, as a result of both the community’s voice and the efforts of the SMPS, the fact remains that self-storage is still not a permitted use under the Downtown Overlay. Additionally, the board believes that self-storage is not the best use of this particular property. For these reasons, the San Marco Preservation Society opposes the development as currently proposed. The SMPS will continue to represent the neighborhood on this matter as the PUD goes through the City’s review process.”

The Resident News reported previously on a Feb. 1 Town Hall meeting hosted by the SMPS during which attorney Steve Diebenow presented the revised design — a 10-story building featuring ground-floor office and retail space, second-story parking, the self-storage components and 100 studio, one- and two-bedroom units, a percentage of which will be affordable housing — and fielded questions and concerns from the community.

“We think we’ve addressed all of those [major concerns expressed by the community],” he said at the Town Hall, those being design, “what was inside the building” and the partial alley closure.

Residents at the March 26 city council meeting expressed their continued opposition to the project.

“Let this be three strikes, you’re out,” one resident said.

Diebenow did not respond to requests for comment from him or his client on this matter.

A Procedural Amendment

Not unrelated to the rezoning request is another piece of legislation currently moving through the city council proposing an amendment to City Council Rule 4.601 (Majority Action). The proposed amendment in Ordinance 2024-0119, filed by the Office of General Counsel (OGC), would “provide that a tie vote on a quasi-judicial matter does not constitute a denial.”

Senior Assistant General Counsel Jason Teal explained this amendment emerged from a settlement agreement between the developer for this proposed project and the City of Jacksonville after he appealed the tie vote that ultimately denied the previous PUD rezoning request last June. The tie vote being interpreted as a denial was “one of the points of contention” in the appeal, Teal said.

“The interpretation by the General Counsel’s Office of the Council’s rules was that the city council can only take positive action…or affirmative action by a majority vote,” Teal said. “Because the motion was made to adopt or pass the rezoning, the fact that it didn’t have an affirmative vote, which is defined in our council rules as a majority vote, then the interpretation was that it’s effectually a denial of the motion, which denied the rezoning.”

Teal referenced Florida Statute 166.033, which contains language on how a municipality must handle land use matters, specifically “the municipality must approve, approve with conditions, or deny the application for a development permit or development order.”

“The argument stated by the appellant in our case took the position that this means that there must be an ‘affirmative action’ to do one of those things,” he wrote in a later e-mail. “Our position is that our Council Rules identify the need for an affirmative action to approve, so when they don’t have an affirmative action (i.e. a tie vote) the motion fails.”

He added that OGC introduced the legislation “because the need for the filing of the legislation stemmed from a settlement agreement and not the normal channels.”

Should the amendment pass, in the event of any future tie votes on quasi-judicial matters, the city council would be able to follow avenues already available to it, which a bill summary for ordinance 2024-0119 explained, are “move to reconsider the item for the purpose of moving and acting on an alternate motion, rerefer the item back to the appropriate committee of reference for additional consideration, or take any other action authorized by the Council Rules or applicable law.”

Teal explained that last summer’s 9-to-9 tie vote was a rare occurrence – “the first time any of us can remember it happening” – and this legislation is a “recognition” that a tie vote “doesn’t restrict, prohibit, change any of the options that the council still has when they come to any vote on a quasi-judicial case.”

However, former District 5 City Councilmember LeAnna Cumber, an adamant opponent of the previous PUD rezoning request, said the proposed amendment to the council rule is “outrageous.”

“It’s a total gift to developers, and to developers who have controversial projects, because what the bill would do is it would make it so you would have to have a majority of members vote to kill the bill,” she said. “Tie votes fail, because in order to win, you have to have a majority. So what this would do is it would make quasi-judicial bills far harder to actually deny.”

Quasi-judicial matters are matters in which council members essentially sit as judges and cast their votes for or against an issue after considering expert testimony and reviewing competent, substantial evidence on the matter in question. Cumber explained council members must have “a legal reason” to vote against a quasi-judicial matter.

2024-0152 (the PUD rezoning request) will next be considered by the DDRB on April 9. 2024-0119 (the council rule amendment) will go before the Rules Committee at its April 1 meeting.

The Resident News will continue to report on these matters as they develop.

By Michele Leivas
Resident Community News

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)