City Council withdraws Downtown self-storage bill

The developer wanted a code change and lost support after pushback from residents and community groups.

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The Jacksonville City Council has withdrawn a bill that would have allowed developers to build self-storage facilities throughout Downtown after months of opposition from residents and community groups.

Council voted 18-0 on July 26 to kill Ordinance 2021-0821 that would have changed the Downtown Overlay Code to list self-storage facilities as a permitted use on the Northbank and Southbank.

Council member Reggie Gaffney, who represents the Downtown Northbank, filed the bill in November 2021 at the request of an Atlanta-based developer who wanted to build a storage unit project on a Southbank site bordered by Prudential Drive and Home Street, near bb’s restaurant.

Organizations like the San Marco Preservation Society, business owners and residents lobbied Gaffney to pull his support.

“I heard the community, but more than that, I heard the Councilwoman (LeAnna Cumber) who represents that community,” Gaffney said. “This is her desire.”

Cumber’s Council district includes the Southbank and San Marco. She said allowing self-storage is counter to the existing Downtown overlay and the recommendation of the Downtown Investment Authority and Downtown Development Review Board, which regulates design standards in urban core. 

Cumber worried that changing the overlay to allow self-storage would harm investment and growth.

“It was a bad plan from the beginning,” Cumber said July 19.

“If we want to grow Downtown we need to create walkable communities — safe streets for pedestrians and bicyclists where residents, restaurants and stores can thrive.”

She pulled the ordinance from the Council meeting’s consent agenda, forcing a vote on the withdrawal.

Council member Garrett Dennis was absent July 26.

The Council Land Use and Zoning Committee voted 6-0 on July 19 to recommend withdrawal. 

Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow partner attorney Steve Diebenow represented real estate company and project developer The Simpson Group. He said the company has the vacant property under contract to purchase.

The developer still could apply for a land use change on the property to planned unit development instead of changing the entire Downtown overlay. 

Council member Matt Carlucci, a San Marco resident and business owner, said he would oppose the self-storage project returning as a PUD.