By Amanda Williamson Mon, Oct 26, 2015 @ 8:50 pm | updated Tue, Oct 27, 2015 @ 5:51 am
Barry Adeeb, co-owner of the Beach Diner in Atlantic Beach, held up the recently submitted plans for a what critics are calling a mega gas station on the property adjacent to his business. Gate has called it small in its plans but Adeeb wanted the City Commission to see the tiny black dots on the sprawling design — to understand that those dots, and only those dots, marked the 19 allotted parking spaces for his popular establishment.
Behind him, residents dressed in the neon yellow shirts of the diner’s Atlantic Beach Cares support campaign filled the City Hall chambers Monday night, leaving standing room only.
Nearly a year ago, Gate Petroleum Company purchased 1.8 acres on Atlantic Boulevard for approximately $1.6 million, according to the Jacksonville Property Appraiser’s Office. At the time, a spokeswoman with Gate reported there were no immediate plans to build a gas station on the lot.
According to Adeeb’s attorney, Paul Eakin, Gate finally submitted a proposal for its future development to the city approximately two weeks ago — and he believes city staff may have plans to push a permit through without approval from the City Commission and without a public hearing.
“We have to wait to see what [the commission] is going to do,” Eakin said. But, “this is way too big of an issue to move forward without holding a public hearing.”
The dispute between Gate and the owners of Beach Diner over the number of spaces the corporation will leave diner patrons has fueled a lengthy court battle and angered residents who frequent the eatery.
Supporters of the diner worry the limited spacing could threaten the business’ ability to operate and be successful. However, Gate has agreed to provide enough parking to meet the city’s required limit – one space for every four seats in the restaurant.
At 76 seats, the diner is currently being offered by Gate exactly what the city requires. But, for the last decade, the diner enjoyed the extra spaces provided by the Atlantic Palms Plaza.
“You can’t have a restaurant, a diner or any successful business without providing parking,” said former Florida Rep. Stan Jordan, who co-owns the diner. If Gate is allowed to build its 6,400-square-foot, 14-pump station, “rest assured, there will be considerable backlash.”
SMALL OR LARGE?
Jeremy Hubsch, the planning and zoning director in Atlantic Beach, said city staff approves projects without the City Commission’s approval all the time.
“If something meets zoning allowances, we don’t need it [council approval],” he added.
Gate’s plans describe the gas station as a small service station, which is currently allowed on the property by Atlantic Beach code of ordinances without any variance or exception, Hubsch said.
Opponents point out it’s actually quite large, but if the city staff views its size differently and if everything is found to be in order, from here they can decide to send the plans back to Gate with attached comments or issue a permit.
Jordan doesn’t believe the city should approve the plans as submitted.
“Look at how the proposed plan is making a mockery of your ordinance,” he said during the Monday night meeting. “Look at it.”
The issue, however, has another, more human element to it.
Concerned citizens worry the gas station will negatively impact traffic along the two-lane Sturdivant Street, which is already heavily trafficked. They believe crime could increase as transients — whether homeless or simply tourists — stop in the Salt Air subdivision to use Gate’s services.
They worry about the potential environmental dangers associated with building a large-scale gas station directly across the street from a residential community and less than five blocks from the beach.
“We can’t let Gate push this through quickly,” Glenn Shuck, a resident of Sturdivant Street, said. “To firmly state our position, no gas station period.”
He even suggested that the current process appeared as if city staff, namely Hubsch, was coaching Gate. However, Hubsch said the remark was preposterous and he wouldn’t comment on it.
Gate representatives were not available for comments.