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Councilman: Riverside, Avondale restaurant bill not 'anti-growth'

Town hall meeting aims to clarify confusion over proposal still being modified

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A proposed bill that would restrict a certain amount of new restaurants in Jacksonville's historic Avondale and Riverside neighborhoods is not intended to be "anti-growth" but instead help keep busy, loud, late-night restaurants from opening in residential areas, said City Councilman Jim Love.

The Avondale and Riverside areas are booming with growth, leading Love to propose the bill, which will need to go before the City Council for approval.

For now, the proposal is still being modified, which is why Love held a town hall meeting Wednesday evening to clear up confusion about what new restaurants would be affected and where the businesses would be restricted. 

Love insisted the bill, which has become a hot-button development issue that has both sides talking, would only tighten up the overlay that is already in place.

"I think most people would not want a restaurant with 150 people selling alcohol until 1 o'clock at night going in right next door to their single-family home. That's the issue we're trying to address here," Love said. 

READ: Summary of proposed changes to Riverside, Avondale overlay

Love said the proposal would not have any effect on new restaurants coming into commercial areas -- popular places like Five Points or Avondale, where Mellow Mushroom and the Brick are located. 

"If I live next to Kickbacks and it's in a commercial area, I know that and I have to expect that," Love said. 

The current overlay map breaks the district up into five "character areas." The new overlay, which would go into place if the bill is passed, does not change much from the current one. But instead of telling new restaurants to "consider" meeting certain standards, they would be required to meet them if they want to build in the "Historic Residential" character area. 

VIEW: Existing overlay map showing 5 character areas

The bill says new restaurants would have to provide parking on site, control light from cars and parking structures and have no more than 60 seats inside. Restaurants also would not be allowed to sell takeout, and entertainment or outside seating would not be allowed.

The original bill called for restaurants to close by 8 p.m.; however, that has been taken out of the most recent proposal.

"I think we're the new local hot spot. We're encouraging that. That's why we moved here and live here. I opened my business here to be a part of that," said Scott Redfield, who owns a salon in Five Points.

Redfield was one of dozens of people who attended the town hall meeting to learn more about the bill that could possibly put a cap on new restaurants coming in.

"I hope that everyone will also turn out to the Council hearing as well to ask questions and present any feelings they have and voice their concerns and issues there because I think that's just as important as this local meeting too because this is definitely going to be placed in front of them," Redfield said.

The bill will be making its way through committees before it comes before the Jacksonville City Council for approval. A date for that has not yet been announced.