CHIPLEY - Residents of Chestnut Hill St. came out in droves Tuesday night to protest the proposed entryway for a new 24-hour drive-thru convenience store.
Council members unanimously approved the recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commissioner to issue a development order for the store when they met in regular session last month.
The property owner, Jamey Lane, plans to begin construction on the 2,400 square ft. building within the next 60 days.
City Manager Dan Miner reports all city requirements have been met - but it's not the store, rather the location of the access road - that residents are protesting.
"The entrance to the store will be ten feet away from my property," said Don Steverson. "This property has been in my wife's family for 80 years. And for longer than that, the residents of this neighborhood have raised families there and participated in civic affairs. The traffic and trash problem is already bad, and this will ruin our street."
Winona VanLandingham agreed, stating the entryway would lower property values and make it difficult to sell or lease any existing property. Although not required by law, VanLandingham and other residents also protested the lack of formal notification by the city and demanded the city resend the development order.
Residents suggested changing the access road to State Road 77, but Travis Howell of the project's engineering firm,
Alday-Howell Engineering, stated Florida Department of Transportation requirements prevented them from doing so.
In response, residents continued to focus on what they say was lack of proper notification.
"It would have cost less than $50 to send us all a letter as a courtesy," said Steverson. "Whether it's required or not, that would have been the right thing to do."
City Attorney Michelle Taggert advised the council and residents the city is now bound to follow the order.
"I don't know that you have the authority to withdraw," said Taggert.
Mayor Linda Cain reminded those in attendance the information about the project was advertised in the newspaper and reported by local media, but expressed her desire to listen to the residents' concerns.
"I know we can't do anything about it, but we still need to hear what they have to say," said Cain, who also reminded residents all issues are discussed in council meetings, and citizens are invited to attend so they can stay informed.
Norma Jean Steverson, whose parents each served as city council members, became emotional when she addressed the council.
"We just had no chance for input," she said. "It's a moral thing at this point. It's a terrible thing to do to a street of people who have lived there their whole lives."