Concerned residents gathered Thursday night to voice their opinions to Jacksonville's Planning Commission about whether a Mellow Mushroom pizza restaurant restaurant will be allowed to open in the Shoppes of Avondale.
"We think it improves the neighborhood for future growth on a level that is sustainable," said William Allen, Mellow Mushroom.
The debate over the restaurant has become a proxy war between neighbors and businesses in the Avondale area.
After hours of testimony, the truth came out: It’s not about the pizza but the people who eat it, where they park, how much they drink and what they do.
But the Mellow Mushroom argues the parking problem isn’t their fault nor should they be punished for a situation they didn’t create.
The empty space is there they said, so why prevent a new business that would bring jobs, tax revenue, and an added venue to the area.
"I have watched the parking expand, and expand, and expand from the increased number of restaurants in that area, and it's good but it's maxed out. By adding one more restaurant this is going to tip the scales beyond recovery," said Richard Skinner.
"I can tell you that the parking is a nightmare. Instead of trying to fit our neighborhood to this project, make Mellow fit to the neighborhood," said Mike Healy.
"If we make it more complicated for business owners and more complicated to open up in the Riverside area I don’t see how we can grow as a city," said Michael Kuttoo.
"As a small business owner I am watching how business-friendly this process is. Shop owners look forward to increased foot traffic and bring increased foot traffic to their shops as well," said Theresa Whitley.
"I ask all of you to think about the number of jobs it will create for young people just like me to climb to the top," said Dana Carden, Mellow Mushroom employee.
This has become such a big issue that Councilman Jim Love has changed the way planning and zoning handles these issues, essentially putting a moratorium on any businesses coming in that can’t provide additional parking.
Late Thursday night, the Planning Commission voted to allow the Mellow Mushroom a zoning exception allowing alcohol sales for the restaurant on St. Johns Avenue at the corner of Ingleside Avenue.