A proposed liquor store at the corner of Golfair Boulevard and Davis Street is less than 200 feet away from KIPP Voice Academy. | Will Brown, Jacksonville TodayA proposed liquor store at the corner of Golfair Boulevard and Davis Street is less than 200 feet away from KIPP Voice Academy. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today
A proposed liquor store at the corner of Golfair Boulevard and Davis Street is less than 200 feet away from KIPP Voice Academy. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today

Proposal for city to buy Brentwood liquor store is withdrawn

Published on June 6, 2023 at 5:12 pm

School may be out for the summer in Duval County, but a discussion surrounding a liquor store coming soon beside a charter school in Brentwood is just heating up — as a city proposal to buy the property is withdrawn and another is filed. 

Council member Al Ferraro had filed legislation that would have had the city buy the property from a St. Johns-based family business by using dollars in the Capital Improvement Plan earmarked for removing the Confederate monument in Springfield Park. His quickly withdrawn bill also would have created a community center in the store’s place.

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“When the community came out here and was asking the Council members to come up with something to stop this liquor store from being built, this was really the only way I knew how to go about it,” Ferraro said during the May 23rd Council meeting. 

His proposal did not go over well with neighborhood residents, though, despite their vocal organized opposition to the liquor store so close to the school.  


“That money is for the removal of that Confederate monument and it needs to remain in the CIP for that purpose,” Council member Tyrona Clark-Murray says.

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Meanwhile, another new bill, sponsored by Council President Terrance Freeman, is aimed at ensuring decisions on liquor store exemptions come before the entire City Council and not just the 13-member Planning Commission, made up of mayoral appointees.

“We were all shocked to learn this all transpired and learn this didn’t come before us as a body to vote,” Freeman tells Jacksonville Today.

The city’s Planning Department encouraged the Commission to deny the exemption in 2020. However, during a seven-hour Zoom meeting — of which no video recording exists — the commission approved the exemption.

Jacksonville city code [Section 636.136(d)] states  zoning exceptions are only good for one year at a time, and “Failure to exercise the zoning exception, variance or waiver by commencement of the use or action approved within one year or such longer time as adopted by the decision-making body, as the case may be, shall render the exception, variance or waiver invalid and all rights arising thereunder shall terminate.”

Metro Gardens Community Association counsel Jack Webb says the Office of General Counsel has yet to respond to his public records request about whether the Planning Commission extended the exception.

In a May 11 conversation with Jacksonville Today, store owner Gurpreet Singh says the delays were due to his LLC’s being a family-owned small business that does not have the liquid assets to quickly develop properties as well as contend with the local permitting process

“I’m a huge proponent of small businesses. I want to see small businesses grow and thrive. I’m very passionate about kids and ensuring they have every opportunity to see all their potential will allow,” Freeman says. “Having coached (baseball) all over this city, it’s very evident to me there are certain types of businesses that like to open up in all areas of town. One is liquor stores.”

Freeman says the timing of the Planning Commission’s decision during the pandemic and at a time when many public meetings were held virtually led to misunderstandings.

City Council President Terrance Freeman | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today

The Jacksonville Planning Commission unanimously approved a zoning exemption in July 2020 that allowed for hard liquor sales.Singh, the  store’s owner, says he had no idea that the KIPP Voice Academy K-7 school had been approved for the property across the road at the time he bought an abandoned gas station near I-95 with plans to open the store. 

Council member Clark-Murray was one of the few residents who spoke out against the liquor store during the planning meeting three years ago as a member of the Northwest Citizens Planning Advisory Committee.

Along with Council member Reggie Gaffney Jr., she is co-sponsoring Freeman’s bill. 

“I am in support of adding that extra layer of oversight to exceptions and waivers from the Planning Commission to the City Council,” she says. 

Freeman’s proposed ordinance would require 10 votes to pass. At least five current Council members – Ferraro, Freeman, Clark-Murray, Gaffney Jr. and Ju’Coby Pittman – have told neighborhood residents they will do what they can to ensure a liquor store does not open next to the KIPP VOICE Academy.

Meanwhile, work continues on the store. Neither the owner, nor Metro Gardens Community Association President Lydia Bell, or Ferraro have returned requests for comment since Ferraro’s bill was filed. 

author image Reporter email Will Brown is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. He previously reported for the Jacksonville Business Journal. And before that, he spent more than a decade as a sports reporter at The St. Augustine Record, Victoria (Texas) Advocate and the Tallahassee Democrat. Reach him at will@jaxtoday.org.

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