Self-Storage Coming to the Southbank

Self-Storage Coming to the Southbank
The City Council voted 11-8 in favor of the PUD rezoning request for the Lofts at Southbank mixed-use development on April 23, before a packed crowd of attendees.

It came down to a 30-minute discussion at the April 23 city council meeting, during which City Councilmember Joe Carlucci implored his fellow councilmembers to back him in voting against the amended PUD rezoning for the Lofts at Southbank, the mixed-use development that would bring self-storage to the Southbank alongside retail and multi-family units.

Ultimately, only seven other councilmembers — Ron Salem, Ken Amaro, Raul Arias, Matt Carlucci, Tyrona Clark-Murray, Will Lahnen and Jimmy Peluso — opposed 2024-0152, and the rezoning was approved in an 11-8 vote. 

Amendments to the PUD included a trio of conditions set forth by the Land, Use and Zoning Committee about retail square footage, ground floor usage and business hours for the self-storage component.

Councilmember Rory Diamond would have been the deciding vote for 2023-0007 – the previous iteration of the PUD that was voted down in a 9-9 vote last year – which he referenced during discussion prior to the vote.

“I wish I had been here so it would have been 10-9 and we wouldn’t be here tonight looking at this,” he said.

Previously voting against the rezoning last year, Councilmember Michael Boylan flipped his vote to in favor last night, calling this revised development “a good compromise and a markedly better product.” The addition of Vestcor to the development team and the addition of a minimum of 100 residential units — no less than 80% of which will be affordable housing — were some of the factors Boylan mentioned in his address as to why he supported the rezoning.

“It was disingenuous to call the prior application a mixed-use,” he said. “This time it is. Mixed-use now is far more balanced.”

Councilmember Matt Carlucci has been a steadfast opponent to allowing self-storage in the Southbank since legislation was introduced in 2021 to do just that. That legislation was ultimately withdrawn. At last month’s city council meeting, Carlucci said he was “shaking mad.”

“I’ve heard everything everybody said up here to justify their vote to go against the people,” he said. “We’re going against the district council member and the at-large geographical member who have spent our lives in San Marco and the Southbank fighting for what’s best.”

“The overlays are put together by the people to reflect what they want in their neighborhoods,” he added. “Wait till you get an overlay in your district. You’ll see how you feel about it.”

Joe Carlucci, the district council member, inquired about the possibility of future legal action for approving a PUD containing a use not approved by the 2045 Comprehensive Plan. Carlucci referenced a staff report stating two out of three are allowed (retail and residential) while the third (self-storage) is not.

“There’s case law actually from Jacksonville where a single use on a PUD was deemed to be inconsistent with the comprehensive plan and the court invalidated the entire PUD as being inconsistent with the comprehensive plan,” said City of Jacksonville Senior Assistant General Counsel Jason Teal.

Carlucci further argued the sole purpose of the PUD is to allow self-storage while the existing zoning would already allow the other uses in the proposed mixed-use development.

“I urge you, please, upon my recommendation, my ask, to deny this,” he said in conclusion.

In a later phone interview, Joe Carlucci said the vote was “disappointing,” though he hopes to “reengage” with the developer on the design elements as the project continues working through design review with the Downtown Development Review Board (DDRB), which deferred voting on the project’s conceptual approval at a meeting earlier last month.

“I think that there’s a lot of work to do here on the architecture and I think that it’s got to come from a creative solution,” said DDRB Board Member Trevor Lee.

Fellow Board Member Gary Monahan added, “I appreciate the work that’s gone into this, but I think that the design does slightly miss the mark.”

While Board Member Joseph Loretta said he “was in disagreement with the rest of the group to some extent,” he also “underst[ood] where everybody’s coming from.”

Based on board comments, attorney Cyndy Trimmer, representing the applicant, ultimately asked to “table” the conceptual approval.

“I think that we’ve all got a lot that we’ve taken away here today, and I’d like the opportunity to work with [staff] and our team to determine which is the next appropriate step forward,” she said.

Following the city council vote, San Marco Preservation Society Board Member Logan Cross provided the following statement to The Resident News:

“The recent vote by the City Council to approve the Southbank self-storage rezoning proposal was the culmination of a multi-year effort to prevent the addition of a self-storage facility at a prominent intersection in the community. Though there have been many variations of the proposed structure, they all included self-storage as a core component. For this reason, the San Marco Preservation Society (SMPS) has been consistent and persistent in its opposition to the development. SMPS board members did participate in discussions focusing on improving the structure, but we remained resolute in our opposition to any version that included self-storage. Throughout this arduous process, the residents of the community were fully engaged and persistent in the opposition efforts. It is that commitment to sustaining the character and quality of the neighborhood that makes San Marco a wonderful place to live.”

The Resident News reached out to attorney Steve Diebenow, representing the developer, for comment but did not receive a response by press time.

By Michele Leivas
Resident Community News

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