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October 11, 2012

Liquor stores denied in Live Oak

Neighbors say they would be too close to homes, schools

Live Oak — The Suwannee County Board of Adjusters met on the evening of Oct. 8 to hold a public hearing and to make a decision on whether to grant or deny the requests for special exceptions to place two package liquor stores at two separate locations on Ohio Avenue, just down the road from each other.

The first petition requested was filed by Chetan Thakor who sought to place a package store in the current AT&T building, 929 Ohio Avenue, Live Oak.

Greg Brown, who lives directly behind CVS and near the proposed location stated that while he didn’t have an issue with a liquor store coming to the city, he did have concerns about that particular location.

“The area already has traffic problems,” Brown stated. “And it’s within close proximity to a school. Are we sending the right message to the children who walk to and from school?”

Robinette Odom, a resident who has lived in that location for over 15 years, joined Brown in expressing her concerns about the increased traffic.

“West Moreland is my primary route to get back and forth to my home,” she said. “I live approximately six tenths of a mile from this proposed location, so I’m very familiar with the neighborhood and the commercial area that is there on 129. As you’re going up West Moreland to get to 129, you have three entrances and exits smack dab on top of one another. It’s very much a safety concern.”

Traffic concerns was the heartbeat of both Brown and Odom, but they were also concerned about the family friendly neighborhood, and what adding a liquor package store would do to the rural community.

“There’s hundreds of homes behind this particular area and it’s a really family oriented area,” Odom told the board. “There’s a pharmacy, two auto parts stores, an AT&T store, a place to get your oil changed, KFC and Dairy Queen. They meet the needs of the family. They’re wanting to bring in a liquor package store; I think that sticks out like a sore thumb.”

After the board heard the testimonies of local residents, the board asked Thakor, the potential owner, to address the board. Thakor asked the panel why CVS, which is next door to his proposed location, got permission to sell alcohol?

This question was answered by George Curtis, development manager for the City of Live Oak. Curtis explained that the specific language in the land development says “package store.” Curtis goes on to explain, “Because the Florida Statute recognizes that package stores are under the new designation of us [Suwannee County] being wet, because of it being a store where the sales primarily are alcohol based, it falls under a different class than a grocery store or pharmacy who already had an alcohol license already in existence without the designation of being wet. They do not require a special exception.”

The board voted unanimously to deny the request for a special exception for the 929 Ohio Ave. location.

The second petition filed by Rabhuji and Kamlabahen Thakor, requested permission from the board to place a liquor store at the former location of Brannon’s Meat Market, 636 Ohio Ave. Several local residents addressed the board and voiced their concern of placing a package store at this location.

Laura Gardner expressed to the board that “the feasibility is just not there.” Gardner shared with the board her experiences of living in both Tampa and Gainesville and did not recall a liquor store being so close to homes. 
“I cannot remember a liquor package store in any of those communities this close of proximity to residential homes,” said Gardner.

A concern addressed by a board member was that the proposed location for the liquor store was about 500 feet from a daycare center.

A motion was passed to deny the special exception and passed unanimously.

Board members expressed that they are not against liquor stores opening in Live Oak, but that those stores in the proposed locations would not be a delightful package.

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