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Plant Bar owner in fight with city over zoning and other unexpected changes

According to the owner, the parking lot is zoned residential while the Plant Bar is zoned commercial, and apparently no one knew.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Plant Bar would be a first in the Murray Hill community, selling house plants and beer and wine.

"The community loves it ," said Ida Uffelman.

Uffelman said she had planned to open the doors of the Plant Bar four months ago, but it is still closed. The problem she said is with City Hall.

"I live in Murray Hill," Uffelman said. "I want to open my business and give back to the community and create jobs. The one thing that is stopping me is the City of Jacksonville."

In 2020, she took her plans to the city and it was approved. 

However, after spending $60,000 to transform an old building and comply with the plans, the same city that passed the inspections refused to give her a final inspection and certificate of use. 

The city now wants her to do more.

"My mental health has taken a hit," said Uffelman. "It is kind of hard to come up here because I can't open. It is just depressing."

Uffelman tells On Your Side one of the stumbling blocks is the zoning of the proposed parking area.

It is zoned residential while the Plant Bar is zoned commercial, and apparently no one knew.  

"How did our plans get approved knowing we are using that for parking, and it is zone residential? No one can answer me," Uffelman said.

Now, there is more that has to do with landscaping in addition to the rezoning. 

"Now we have to go through a 10-step review, which was never mentioned before," Uffelman explained.

The Plant Bar was supposed to open three months ago, now for Uffelman, it has become a fight to finish what she started.

"Why do major corporations get all these incentives to open in Jax, yet I can't even open without a long list of bureaucratic nonsense I have got to do," she said.

On Your Side reached out to city hall to see what it would take to resolve this expeditiously. 

We were not given a clear answer, but we were given the background as to why things are where they are:

'...this company initially stated they would be a restaurant thus not requiring an exception for Beer/Wine with outside sales and service, then it turned out the permitted plans did not show a kitchen so we told them they needed an exception. Review of the exception application determined the improvements to the property in the last 2 years have also tripped the threshold for compliance with part 12 landscaping / parking and triggers the requirement for 10-set civil plan review, which would be denied because half of the parking lot is zoned residential so they would also need a rezoning. This was all discussed in the zoom meeting with CM DeFoor and with Jack Shad, the agent for the business owner..." 

We are waiting to see if there is a viable solution that would please the city and make the business compliant.