Jacksonville Plans Commission Rejects Liquor Store Rezone on East Morton

By Benjamin Cox on November 4, 2022 at 5:34am

The Jacksonville Plans Commission rejected plans for a new liquor store on East Morton Avenue Wednesday night.

The Plans Commission had received a request for rezone from Vikram Patel at 400 East Morton Avenue last month. Patel was wanting to change the zoning from B-1 to B-3 with Special Use to place a liquor store at the location. Soon after word spread of a rezone request was placed with the city for that location, several residents who live in the neighborhood created a coalition to push to stop the rezone.

Many spoke Wednesday night at the monthly Plans Commission meeting asking the Commission to deny the petition because of concerns of disrupting the neighborhood, possibly causing home values to decrease, and concerns with noise and trash among others. More than two dozen people filled the council chambers to voice opposition to the rezone request.

Ward 2 Alderwoman Lori Large-Oldenettel spoke in favor of the citizens who were in opposition to the rezone, saying it was just the second time in 11 years she’s seen such actions by citizens in her ward: “I’ve received quite a few telephone calls and talked to many of you in person or by phone about the concerns the residents have in Ward 2 regarding changing the zoning from B-1 to B-3 with special use. It’s rare that you see a sign go into a yard and so many people fill your room in opposition to a zoning change. I’m not sure how often that happens, but this is only the second time in my 11 years that I have come to support the residents of my ward with any type of…our ward because [Ward 2 Alderwoman] Alison [Rubin de Celis] is here, too with a zoning change.”

The motion to deny the petition passed by a narrow vote of 3-2. The petition now heads to the Jacksonville City Council for a final vote. City Attorney Dan Beard says the petition faces steep odds of passing the city council: “With the denial by the Plans Commission of the rezone, at least the recommendation to deny that petition, it now goes to the City Council at its next regularly scheduled meeting. At that point, they will consider whether to follow the recommendation and deny the rezoning or they could grant the rezoning at that point. There was a petition filed by a number of residents including residents who own at least 20% of the adjoining property on a perimeter basis, and that triggers a 2/3 vote of council to approve the rezoning over those objections.”

A written petition was also given to the Plans Commission that had approximately 70 signatures against the rezone request, which also triggers a 2/3 vote of the city council.

Patel said during public comment that his realtor never made him aware of problems with the zoning of the property before purchasing the location, the former home of E-Bolt.

In other Plans Commission business, the Commission approved a re-zoning request for 1108 West Morton Avenue, the former home of the Luau Grill and Rally’s, from B-3 to B-3 with Special Use to construct a new location for Taco Gringo. Owner Jim Mizeur told the Commission that with the ongoing work near his present location at 501 South Main Street, it has hurt his business and he would like to expand. The Plans Commission approved the rezone 5-0.

Michael Hayes (left) and Ryan Swanson (right) of Ark Design Resources holds up site plans for the Dollar General location proposal at 1101 East Morton Avenue.

The Plans Commission also approved a re-zoning request for 1101 East Morton Avenue from PD Mixed to B-3 with the intent to build a new Dollar General Fresh Market at the location. The request also had site plans approved. In addition to the re-zone, property owner Michael Hayes also petitioned for a re-zone request of the Waters Edge Winery and Banquet Hall located at 1055 & 1061 East Morton Avenue. Hayes explained that the PD Mixed zoning for the area carried with it some restrictions, and should he wish to sell the property and business down the line, he didn’t want the zoning to fall out of compliance and cause problems. The Plans Commission approved the re-zoning request and the site plans for the Dollar General by a vote of 5-0.

During public comment, the Plans Commission heard from Dennis Werth, Jim Sigourney, and Jim Mizeur about presenting intent to purchase the site of the former AC-Humko plant. Current owner Michael Hayes, says the group wishes to purchase the property from him in order to turn the plant into a cannabis craft grow facility. Werth says his group has the means to purchase the property and beautify it, making it a more welcome site on the east end of Jacksonville. Werth says the group is already fully licensed by the state as a craft grow and cannabis transportation organization. Hayes says he’s spoken with adjacent property owners about the facility coming to that location and has received no objections. Hayes also noted the amount of security the location will have to be under if it is approved to come to the location. Previously, the group had explored placing the facility in the industrial park out by the Jacksonville Correctional Facility, but due to costs could not make that option tenable. City Attorney Dan Beard says that an amendment or a clause for the location may have to be approved by the Plans Commission and the City Council due to the 1,000 ft. setback requirements from residential areas in the city’s cannabis facility ordinance. A full site plan and a request for rezone are expected to be presented at the Plans Commission’s next scheduled meeting on December 7th.