Brentwood residents hoping to prevent a liquor store from opening next to KIPP VOICE Academy have a new advocate: City Council member Al Ferraro.
The former mayoral candidate says he will file legislation that would provide for the city of Jacksonville to buy the liquor store property on Golfair Boulevard.
Ferraro’s plan would use dollars allocated to remove a Confederate monument in Springfield Park to fund the land purchase. The city included $500,000 in the budget to remove the monument.
Ferraro acknowledged he is unsure whether the plan will work. He is term-limited and will leave the council in July. Ferraro noted that the new mayor and City Council — where 10 of the 19 members will be new — may not take up the issue.
“To me, this is a nuisance to a community,” Ferraro says. “I don’t know of any other place that has a liquor store across from schools. … We need to do this, in my opinion, as quickly as possible.”
Lydia Bell, president of the Metro Gardens Neighborhood Association, says its next step is to await what the council does.
Her argument is that residents were not notified of a Planning Commission meeting in the July 2020 when a zoning exception allowed the property to be converted from a run-down gas station into a liquor store.
“There was no reason for us not to be notified,” Bell said Monday night. “We are determined that not one bottle of liquor comes out of that store.”
During a meeting May 8, Metro Gardens counsel Jack Webb told residents that almost anything can be done at the City Council if there are 10 people to support it. Monday, Ferraro echoed that sentiment.
Ferraro was one of four members of the council who attended Monday’s community meeting. Ju’Coby Pittman, whose district will include Brentwood; Reggie Gaffney Jr., whose current district includes Brentwood; and Tyrona Clark-Murray also listened to residents.
Clark-Murray was one of four people who spoke out against the proposed store during the 2020 Planning Commission meeting. She was a private citizen at the time and member of the Northwest Citizens Planning Advisory Committee.
Clark-Murray is a longtime educator who says more must be done to protect children.
“Just imagine the impact that it has on the young minds who will walk past that liquor store every day on their way to school,” Clark-Murray says. “They will remember it. I remember what I saw on my way, on a bus. I can definitely think that those who ride a bus to that particular school and who walk will remember what they see. And, seeing a liquor store every day does have a subconscious impact on our children.”
The Jacksonville Planning Commission approved the store four months before KIPP’s bond financing of the adjacent property to build the school was approved.
The St. Johns County-based owner of the store told Jacksonville Today that if he knew the school would be built next door, he never would have bought the property in 2019.