Proposed security building pits Episcopal School vs. neighbors

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A civics lesson is under way at The Episcopal School of Jacksonville.

The private school is launching a $17 million capital improvement project that includes a new guard station on school property just off Atlantic Boulevard. Officials said the new structure at the entrance to campus would help with security, but would mainly control traffic.

People living in the Live Oak Manor neighborhood next to campus complain it’s just going to make traffic worse in their quiet neighborhood and are actively fighting the plan, saying it will cause backups onto St. Elmo Drive, a public street into their subdivision that also forks off into the Episcopal campus.

Residents said older families and some young children live in Live Oak Manor. Signs are posted  throughout the neighborhood warning drivers to slow down. They said traffic into Episcopal can already be a mess at times, and this project could make it worse.

Jimmy Holderfield, a former police officer who ran for sheriff 2015, lives in the neighborhood.

"We want them not to build the guard shack in the middle of a public road," Holderfield said. "We just don’t think that’s right. If they would move it about 50 to 75 feet, the neighborhood is happy."

Episcopal is on spring break this week, so no one was available for an interview. The Rev. Adam Greene, head of The Episcopal School of Jacksonville, issued this statement:

The new guard house will also provide an additional point of welcome to the campus. This upgrade will have no impact on the number of vehicles entering or leaving the campus. The guard house will not be gated, but will provide a noticeable check-in point for all visitors to the school’s campus. Most importantly, according to the survey on file with the city of Jacksonville, the security house is located on school property."

Neighbors took their concerns to their City Council representative, Joyce Morgan. She is hoping for a compromise.

"I believe that Episcopal should be able to do it," Morgan said. "But, by the same token, this is a neighborhood. This is a community that is been back there as long as the school has been back there, and even longer."

The school's construction plan must be approved by the city and both sides are still talking.

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