Local businesses are, without a doubt, a huge part of any city’s economy and sustainability. As such, residents will often make special efforts to support and defend local businesses.
It’s this logic that’s driving the current feud between Atlantic Beach residents and GATE Petroleum.
Residents have jumped to the defense of Beach Diner, which is fighting GATE over the amount of parking spots that will be designated for the diner when GATE opens a gas station planned for an adjacent lot. They believe that Beach Diner, a locally-based business and a beach mainstay, should not have to run the risk of parking space shortages at the expense of a large conglomerate.
It’s a noble thought, and Beach Diner itself may very well have a valid gripe. There’s one problem with the residents’ argument, though: GATE is from Jacksonville, too.
Its headquarters are in Mandarin. It sponsors both the GATE River Run and a charity golf tournament at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club (which it also manages). The GATE Foundation has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to local causes. Its founder, Herb Peyton, serves on multiple boards and once donated an astounding $1 million to The Bolles School. His son, president John Peyton, served as the city’s mayor.
Sure, it’s a big business. But it’s one of Jacksonville’s best big businesses.
Supporting Beach Diner is not the only motivation for Atlantic Beach residents’ protests. The other arguments, however, are equally problematic. They speak of the increase in traffic; while GATE stations are typically pretty busy, it’s hard to imagine major overflows being caused by some sort of refueling rush. They also argue that a gas station, no matter how nice it may be, is not what they want to represent Atlantic Beach. To them, it doesn’t matter that it will generate business and provide a commodity in the form of a gas station, of which the area has few.
Of course, this is not to say the residents don’t have valid concerns. Those living in houses adjacent to the lot will experience more noise and traffic than they’re used to. Gas stations, no matter how fancy, do occasionally draw bad crowds around here, in the same way that almost anything does after dark. A GATE station, albeit a rather downscale one, was the site of the Jordan Davis shooting a few years ago.
While every citizen is important, and certainly no one wants people to be displaced by something new coming in, that isn’t what’s happening. In the most likely scenario, the station gets built, the neighboring residents are annoyed by the construction, but once it’s up and running, everything will be fine.
Jacksonville residents have over the years gotten a bit of a reputation for premature complaining. Any time a big development is planned, the neighboring residents tend to have an emphatic reaction of anger. It continues through the construction stage, but upon seeing its use and coming to terms with it, the anger fades.
Ultimately, it seems pretty likely that the GATE station will be built. They’ll likely have to reach some sort of agreement with nearby residents to figure out accommodations for their legitimate gripes, and of course they also have to resolve their conflict with Beach Diner. A local business, even if it is an absurdly large one, will continue to flourish while pumping jobs into the community and providing a needed service. And ultimately, that’s a good thing for Jacksonville.