The debate over what to do with the former Kmart property in Neptune Beach continued at the City Council meeting on Monday evening.
During the meeting, several residents voiced concerns about a proposed apartment complex, which would replace the vacant store near the intersection of Atlantic Boulevard and Third Street, according to our News4Jax partner.
A developer wants to put in five three-story apartment buildings with 199 units, as well as retail space. The working name for the project is 500 Atlantic.
But some residents complain the development would take away from Neptune Beach's small-town feel.
The Kmart store went out of business about two years ago. It's a hot topic because, with half of the former shopping center empty, it is the largest vacant property in Neptune Beach at this time. The property is privately owned, with 88,000 square feet of retail, commercial and restaurant space.
There's strong opposition on social media from a Facebook group named "Neptune Beach Kmart," that has more than 1,150 members. The group's description says it aims to "stop the development" of the proposed "big apartment complex" at the old Kmart center.
Nearly a dozen people wearing T-shirts with the group's logo on them attended the City Council meeting Monday night. Though the former Kmart property was not listed on the meeting agenda, community members had a chance to speak during public comment.
Those against the project told council members that they believe the proposed apartment complex isn't right for the community and will create more traffic.
"My concern about it right now is that we’ve had about 1,000 new rental units added in the last year or two," resident Lynda Padrta said. "Adding another ... it’s going to be a lot more people.”
But some voiced their support for the project, saying it would improve economic growth.
“I think it’s a good idea that we should have an apartment complex, or anything that will attract that way," said Ann Nguyen, who supports the proposal. "It brings more tourists.”
Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown said nothing is set in stone yet.
“We’re going to look at it," the mayor said. "We’re going to see what the traffic looks like. And it’ll go through a process of the Community Development Board and citizens will be heard at that time. And it’ll come back to the City Council and citizens will again be heard.”
Padrta said she hopes the city will continue being transparent and take residents' concerns into consideration.
“This is not by any means a done deal in spite of the developer making every effort to make it seem so," Padrta said.
Council members did not make any decisions on the proposal during the meeting.