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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, May. 25, 201612:00 PM EST

The Roost receives council OK, but battle over Riverside restaurant likely going to court

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by: David Chapman

With almost 14 hours of debate behind it, all City Council needed was a few minutes Tuesday to decide the fate of a planned Riverside restaurant.

For now, The Roost will continue on as developers Ted Stein and J.C. Demetree have mostly envisioned after a 13-5 vote of approval by council.

The council vote puts an end to months of contentious disagreement with some area residents who don’t believe a 150-seat restaurant belongs in the former Deluxe Laundry and Dry Cleaners and De Luxe Launderette sites.

If the fight continues, it will shift from City Hall to the courtroom — action resident Jennifer Wolfe says will happen.

Wolfe said she was disappointed by the council’s decision but encouraged by the five votes of support.

“I think this was a lobbyist vote,” said Wolfe, explaining she didn’t think council members were as objective as the courts will be.

Wolfe is a member of Positive Riverside Optimized Urban Development — also known as PROUD — that has been opposed to the restaurant since it was proposed in November.

As planned, it would serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, have a liquor license and outdoor seating, among other features. In the committee process, some changes were made to limit hours of operation and stop outdoor service before dinner.

Still, it wasn’t enough for those who disagreed with a restaurant being placed in a residential area.

Council member Jim Love, who represents the area, said the concept wasn’t allowed in a historic character area like this and it didn’t meet parking requirements. The surrounding buildings, he said, were all residences.

“I don’t think this encourages responsible growth,” he said.

Council member Lori Boyer was the only other person who spoke on the issue, saying she also disagreed with how such planning changes have been handled by the city.

Such a change, she said, didn’t comply with the city’s comprehensive plan for growth.

Despite their calls, most council members went with the change.

Stein said later he was thankful for their support and the time spent listening to the issues. He said build-out should be completed about six months after any appeal is heard. He’s expecting one, but said he believes the case will have a similar outcome in court.

“There’s such potential there,” said Stein, who lives four blocks from the Oak Street site. “There aren’t a lot of historic buildings like this.”

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