JACKSONVILLE,, Fla. — A local day care opened in a neighborhood surrounded with registered sex offenders and predators.
An Action News Jax investigation found people convicted of sex crimes now live less than 1,000 feet from Bella Childcare, which started enrolling children in January.
A viewer, who didn’t want to give his name, reached out to Action News Jax to express concerns because he provides transitional housing for sex offenders nearby.
The transitional house is on Walnut St., which is right around the corner from Bella Childcare.
The City of Jacksonville said sex offenders are not subject to distance requirements.
Per Chapter 685 of the City Ordinance Code, sexual predators are subject to the 2,500-foot distance requirements from certain uses such as day care facilities and schools.
That’s almost triple the distance of the state’s requirement, which is 1,000 feet for offenders and predators.
The COJ said the property on Westlake Ave. has been used as a day care facility on and off since at least 2001 when the Planning Commission granted a zoning exception.
The Planning Commission granted a zoning exception and variance in April 2019, so the property could resume use as a day care facility.
According to the city, Bella Childcare filed a variance to reduce the required 2,500-foot separation down to 285.
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The Planning Department said it had concerns and recommended denial because of the proximity of a registered sexual predator on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement registry.
However, the day care operator testified to the Planning Commission that the registered sexual predator on Peachtree Street was incarcerated and no longer lived nearby.