City council president proposes new ordinance amid battle between Golfair community, liquor store

Community members are fighting against the development of a liquor store across from a school

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new proposed ordinance could change who decides where exceptions for liquor stores can be allowed after a long-standing battle between a community that is upset by the idea of a new liquor store being built in their neighborhood.

People who live in the Golfair area of Jacksonville have met with city officials to share their concerns about the new liquor store opening up next to an elementary school.

If the proposed ordinance 2023-315 is approved, it would require someone who wants to open a liquor store in a restricted area to get the approval from city council instead of the planning commission.

Lydia Bell, president of the Metro Gardens Neighborhood Association, is a 22-year resident and has been speaking out against the store. She said she is happy about the possible ordinance change.

Before this proposed ordinance, the liquor store was given a denial recommendation by the planning and development department but the planning commission approved it. Community members like Bell said they didn’t know this was happening, and they don’t believe the liquor store should be next to a school.

“We, Brentwood, the people, are determined that not one bottle of liquor is going to come out of that store,” Bell said. “Then, it’s just some people that like to drink but sometimes when you drink and you’ve got to drive up here you might hit a child. It’s open to have a liquor store but not by a school.

City Council President at Large Terrence Freeman wrote the proposed ordinance.

“It’s not at the fault of the developer. It’s not at the fault of the school, all those things were done according to the process,” Freeman said. “My initial thought process is this: do a want a liquor next to a school? Absolutely not, and that issue is yet to be resolved but do I want to ensure that moving forward something like this can’t happen again to where we as council members find out about it at the end of it, absolutely.”

City attorneys helped Freeman craft the ordinance. He also has three co-sponsors and community support.

While Bell said the proposed ordinance does show some progress, the liquor store is still currently being built and community members plan on protesting on grand opening day.

The ordinance will go before the Land Use of Zoning next week and then go to the full council.

An attorney for the community group is still requesting information regarding the liquor store to see if the owner has the proper permits and to ensure all the proper filings were in place for the store to open.

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