Bill would restrict some new restaurants in Avondale, Riverside

Hot-button development issue has both sides talking

By Heather Leigh - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Avondale and Riverside areas are booming with growth, which has led City Councilman Jim Love to propose a bill that would restrict new restaurants that are coming into certain areas of the historic neighborhoods.

The bill, which would need to go before the City Council for approval, has people on both sides of the issue talking.

For now, the proposal is still being modified.

One of the biggest concerns businesses and residents in the area raise is parking.

During lunch time hours and on weekend nights, parking can be hard to come by in these areas, forcing some patrons to clog neighborhood streets.

Other issues include loud music, late hours and traffic congestion in general.

“Anywhere between the hours of 11 to 2, it’s a nightmare,” Avondale business owner Jonathan Leonard said.

Love's bill seeks to reinforce certain zoning regulations that would help alleviate those issues. It would also put some restrictions on new restaurants coming into the historic districts' "residential character areas."

A new overlay map breaks the district up into five “character areas.” Some are designated residential character areas are also zone for restaurants, and it's restaurants in those areas that the bill would restrict.

But some people think the bill is too harsh.

VIEW: Existing overlay map showing 5 character areas

Seth Kimball, who also owns a business in Avondale, said that while noise regulations and working with residents is fair, Love's bill could put a cap on growth, which he doesn’t think would help the area. He said providing on-site parking is nearly impossible and will always be an issue, because he says Avondale wasn’t originally built for cars.

“We all have to coexist in the same space together,” Kimball said. “It’s a multifaceted problem, if you consider it like a hub on a tire with lots of spokes. The problem has lots of different solutions, and together that can create the big solution."

According to Jennifer Wolfe, with the group PROUD of Riverside, certain areas are zoned for certain types of commercial development -- and the character areas highlight what type of development is appropriate for that zone. Restaurants are restricted to commercial development areas.

The bill, which Wolfe's urban development watchdog group supports, says new restaurants would have to close their doors to the public by 8 p.m., provide parking on site, control light from cars and parking structures and have no more than 60 seats inside. They also wouldn’t be allowed to sell take-out, and entertainment or outside seating wouldn’t be allowed.

Leonard agreed regulations are certainly needed.

“As you do need the growth for your neighborhood to survive, I feel that there has to be some discretion as to how your neighborhood grows,” Leonard said. “This is a very charming and small neighborhood. To bring in chains and franchise business can be very detrimental to the smaller, independently owned businesses.”

Kimball and Leonard said they would like to see public input on the bill, which is currently being reviewed by committees.

Wolfe said her group is not anti-development, but she is a stakeholder in the neighborhood and wants positive development. She said the most important thing is managing the intensity and type of development, so it does not affect the intensity of use and quality of life in the historic areas.

She said if there is too much traffic in a residential area, the safety of children and people living there becomes an issue.

News4Jax tried to contact Love about the bill, but we were told he would be out of town until Monday. 

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