Self-storage building is a no-go for Southbank corner
A developer's rezoning request for a self-storage facility in San Marco failed by the skin of its teeth Tuesday night when the Jacksonville City Council cast a tie vote, essentially shooting down the developer's plan.
The narrow vote came after a more than three-hour hearing during which dozens of San Marco residents urged the council to deny the plans for a multiuse building on several lots at the southwest corner of Prudential Drive and Hendricks Avenue, the corner currently occupied by Basil Thai Restaurant.
"We are very happy because the community didn't want it," Zimmerman Boulos, a resident and member of the San Marco Preservation Society, said after the decision. "But I'm baffled how we even got to this point."
Atlanta-based developer Boyd Simpson planned to build a multiuse building with storage units, a rooftop bar and retail space on the ground floor. The rezoning request also would have allowed for self-storage units, a use that's not currently permitted in the area.
The 9-9 vote included favorable votes from Councilmembers Danny Becton, Aaron Bowman, Terrance Freeman, Sam Newby, Ju’Coby Pittman, Randy White, Kevin Carrico, Nick Howland and Reggie Gaffney Jr.. Voting no were Councilmembers Michael Boylan, Matt Carlucci, LeAnna Cumber, Randy DeFoor, Al Ferraro, Joyce Morgan, Brenda Priestly Jackson, Ron Salem and Tyrona Clark-Murray.
The vote caused a bit of confusion among council members about whether the vote would need to be recast because it was a tie. Councilmember Rory Diamond was absent from the meeting due to military service.
After a short break and consultation with the city’s head attorney, outgoing council President Freeman announced the tie meant the vote failed, prompting relief in an audience of opponents.
Prior to the vote, Steve Diebenow, partner with the law firm of Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow who represented the developer, said the company had tried to come to a compromise with residents, leading to the decision to add a rooftop bar, retail and office space, and residential housing.
“I know this project is controversial,” Diebenow told council members, but he said the plan “supports” the Downtown area. The developer began with a plan for roughly 80% storage and 20% “other uses” but reduced the storage to 57% and increased other uses to 43%.
The community, including Lauren Carlucci, president of the San Marco Preservation Society, did not agree that a compromise had been reached. She said the residents urged the developer to create a 50-50 split — half residential and half storage.
"When we met to discuss a possible compromise we asked for the applicant to meet us halfway," she said. Diebenow "is including literally every other use, including the self-storage office and the loading zones and all the parking in the non-storage uses," she said.
Council members Matt Carlucci and Cumber agreed with the residents. Both spent significant time urging their colleagues to deny the rezoning request.
"It is like everyone said: putting lipstick on a pig," Cumber said. She acknowledged that she and several others would be leaving office, but she chastised her colleagues for what she referred to as an "open season" on other representatives' districts.