JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Many people in Atlantic Beach pride themselves on maintaining a "small-town beach feel," but told First Coast News they worry the new development for a Gate gas station could ruin that.
Employees at Beach Diner on Atlantic Boulevard described the restaurant as the "David" in this situation while their soon-to-be next door neighbor - the construction site for the future Gate gas station - is "Goliath."
It’s a battle that has started to divide some in this community, so the diner decided to fight back. It sold shirts in the diner that say "Beaches Strong" to raise enough money to hire an attorney to sue Gate. Employees did hire the attorney in the end, but Gate was successful.
Beach Diner said they had almost 100 spaces for parking, but now the gas station has only left them with about 30 spaces.
Beach Diner partner Stan Jordan said many of their customers are older so taking away parking could be detrimental. He said the gas station will also make the area too congested.
"Atlantic Beach is like the last of the Mayberrys," Jordan said. "We’ve been in court with them and unfortunately we feel the city commission did not do their homework and make an ordinance."
First Coast News spent Friday afternoon asking dozens of residents about their opinion and ultimately it turned out to be 50-50.
Those in support of the gas station said it'll improve the area by replacing a run-down shopping center with a nice-looking and nicely-run business. Many also say it will help to bring gas prices down by adding to the competition.
Misty, Skipper, Vice-President of Communications for Gate, sent us the following statements:
"We selected this particular property on Atlantic Blvd. because it was already zoned for our proposed use, was located on the main commercial corridor with high-visibility, and there are few similar service providers in the area. We also felt that we could dramatically improve the property by removing the dilapidated shopping center that was previously on the site.While we are disappointed that a small group of residents have voiced opposition to the redevelopment of the property, we hear from countless members of the Atlantic Beach community who support the project and who look forward to having a GATE store in their neighborhood. GATE is excited to be moving forward with our new Atlantic Beach store and we look forward to serving the Atlantic Beach community."