Atlantic Beach is looking at more defined city code regulations for gas stations and convenience stores, and began that conversation with a joint meeting of the city commission and community development board last Wednesday.

 

This discussion comes toward the end of the city’s year-long moratorium on gas station and convenience store development, enacted in August 2016. Atlantic Beach City Attorney Brenna Durden told both groups the moratorium will expire in February.

Derek Reeves, interim director of community development, said the goal of the proposed amendments is to create a code more in line to what the residents want and expect. The controversy of parking and hours of operation surrounding the new Gate gas station on Atlantic Boulevard in 2016 sparked the moratorium. Reeves said as the city commission at the time was looking over city code to apply it to the proposed gas station, commission members realized much of the code was over 20 years old, and didn’t apply to the current makeup and layout of the city.

The moratorium was placed so commissioners could have more time to look over and update city code as it has to do with automotive service stations and convenience stores.

“We know that there have been some conversation about it in the public and we’ve had that moratorium in place now for a little over a year,” said Reeves. “We’re trying to get around to addressing that and get that all straightened out for everybody.”

The city requested public feedback on gas stations and convenience stores in early November, with questions specifically about size, hours of operation, buffering and in what zoning districts should they be built. It received seven responses before the joint meeting in mid-November. All either suggested severe limitations to both establishments or wanted no future development of gas stations and convenience stores.

A majority of the community development board and city commission voiced in support of making both gas stations and convenience stores a use by exception, which would require plans to be approved by both the community development board and the city commission.

In terms of zoning, members of both groups preferred future gas stations and convenience stores to be in commercial general, which is located along Atlantic Boulevard and Mayport Road.

When it came to hours of operation and buffering, however, members of both groups had varying opinions. Some wanted both convenience stores and gas stations to close before midnight or at the same time as local bars close. Others campaigned for 24/7 operations, citing an open convenience store would provide safety for those getting gas in the early morning hours. Some suggested 24/7 operating hours with alcohol in a separate facility and operating under earlier hours.

Reeves said he will be taking everyone’s input and drafting a new amended ordinance. He anticipates a formal draft won’t be presented to the community development board until January.