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Neighbors, developer battle over plans for Roost restaurant and bar

by: Danielle Avitable, Action News Jax Updated:

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Neighbors have been protesting the planned construction of the Roost bar and restaurant on Oak Street for months, and Wednesday night, they took their fight to city hall.

The zoning overlay was adopted in 2008 to protect the character of the Riverside area. As it stands, the location on Oak Street where developers want to build Roost is a commercial residential office in the historical residential character area.

Under this zoning and overlay, only mixed use buildings and restaurants up to 60 seats are allowed to be developed, but the current proposal includes a 150-seat restaurant with full service bar.

Kay Ehas was one of the witnesses for Wednesday’s special hearing with the zoning committee.

“The whole purpose of the overlay is to protect residential areas from further commercial intrusion,” said Ehas.


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Arguments from both sides went back and forth for hours, addressing concerns about traffic, noise and parking issues.

Charles Johnston owns the building across the street from the vacant building where Roost is proposed to be built.

“Property values will go up, a lot of young people want this sort of thing and the future of this neighborhood is in the young people,” said Johnston.

Property value was another big argument between both sides.

“We’ve done a study that shows that the property values of homes around restaurants, outdoor seating, full bars, outdoors sales and service open until 2 a.m., and the houses around them appreciate,” the developer’s attorney Steve Diebenow, said.

Midnight was the cut off time for the special hearing. The zoning committee will bring their recommendation to the city council.