City Council postpones bill authorizing self-storage buildings Downtown | Jax Daily Record | Jacksonville Daily Record
The Jacksonville City Council has delayed a decision on a request from an Atlanta-based developer to change the downtown overlay code to allow construction of self-storage facilities.
After more than an hour of debate and opposition from more than 120 downtown and San Marcos residents and business owners, council voted 12 to 7 to return Ordinance 2021-0821 to the land use and zoning committee.
The bill, introduced by Council Member Reggie Gaffney in November, would change the Downtown Overlay Code unanimously approved by Council in 2019.
Steve Diebenow, partner of Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow, is the solicitor representing developer and property company The Simpson Group which he says is under contract to buy a property in downtown Southbank where they want to build a self-service storage center.
The property is bounded by Prudential Drive and Home Street.
Diebenow said June 7 that he had approached Gaffney to file the bill and Council Member LeAnna Cumber, who represents Southbank and neighboring San Marco, declined to file the bill.
The decision to change the overlay was also opposed by the Downtown Investment Authority, the Downtown Development Review Board, and the city’s planning and development department.
The DIA board of directors recommended, if the council passed the bill, that only self-storage units be allowed within 500 feet of the downtown limits.
Diebenow drafted an amendment approved by the Land Use and Zoning Committee on June 7 that relaxed that recommendation to say that a self-storage facility would be permitted if any part of the building was within 500 feet from the limit.
Although the bill was approved 6-1 by the LUZ committee, council members expressed concerns on June 14 about strong opposition to the proposal from residents, businesses and organizations in San Marco and San Marco. Southbank.
Cumber Council members, Danny Becton; Matt Carlucci; Al-Ferraro; Michel Boylan; Ju’Coby Pittman; and Joyce Morgan voted against that decision and wanted to take the final vote on June 14.
During the meeting, Cumber said the amendment could allow storage facilities deep within the downtown limits and negatively impact the millions of dollars in private development incentives the city has given over the past of the last decade.
She said the bill reversed previous policy approved by Council and feared that ignoring the recommendations of the DIA and the Downtown Development Review Board would weaken the independent authority and its downtown planning.
“Changing the whole overlay for a lobbyist who has a client who made a bad business decision is a very bad idea,” Cumber said on June 10.
She said Council should not alter the overlay throughout the town center for a developer’s plans.
“When people look at the city and say why can’t we be Tampa or why can’t our downtown grow? Why do we have this potential that we never seem to realize? That is why. We don’t have a vision,” Cumber said.
The city’s general counsel’s office said at the meeting that the developer could seek to allow development of planned units on the site instead of changing the entire downtown overlay, which would have an impact on both Northbank and Southbank.
“We don’t have a plan that we stick to, and we change what people are trying to do on a developer’s whim,” Cumber said.
The bill’s sponsor, Gaffney, who represents the Downtown Northbank, said he was “on the fence” about his vote on June 14 after hearing more than 20 public comments and receiving nearly 100 emails opposing the addition of self-storage as a permitted downtown use.
DIA CEO Lori Boyer introduced the Downtown Overlay legislation in 2019 and authored much of the policy.
Boyer said the overlay approved by Council three years ago had areas where self-service storage and light industry are permitted by exception.
“Our council’s concern was the increase or proliferation of these downtown facilities and their detrimental effects on the activation and density of downtown population and uses,” Boyer said.
Groups such as Scenic Jacksonville and the San Marco Preservation Society spoke out against the policy change.
LUZ Council Committee Chairman Rory Diamond recommended that the bill be referred to his committee to try to find a compromise that the developer and the community could accept.
The committee could debate the bill as soon as it meets on June 22.
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