The last neighbor wasn't the best one, say most folks who live near N Dale Mabry Highway and Hudson Lane. And that has led many to be skeptical of plans by Amoco Oil Co. to turn the old Mako's Bay Club location into a Split Second gas station.
But after meeting with company representatives Monday, homeowners decided to give their new neighbor a chance as long as it makes the dilapidated site more attractive and more safe.
Only one obstacle remains.
Amoco's offer to buy the former Mako's building hinges on the county's approval of zoning for the 24-hour store to sell beer and wine. Revocation of the former nightclub's liquor zoning in 1989 is the reason the property has stood vacant so long.
The gas station will have a gourmet coffee shop and delicatessen with a seating area, an Amoco official said.
The corner's troubles started when a family-style restaurant got the county's permission to sell beer and wine, said Olin Beers, a longtime resident.
In turn, the restaurant closed down, the property changed hands several times and eventually was reopened as the Mako's Bay Club.
Once Mako's got permission from the county to allow people to drink alcohol, homeowners say the club became a noisy and rowdy neighbor that attracted too many cars and people. The county eventually revoked Mako's liquor zoning and the lounge shut down.
But Amoco has assured residents that Split Second employees will not allow loitering or drinking on the property if the county agrees to the liquor zoning.
A zoning hearing officer will hear Amoco's request on March 16. The officer will make a recommendation to the County Commission, which will make a final decision on April 21.
Amoco representative Michael Fitzgerald said the company probably has a 50-50 chance of getting the needed zoning. But if neighborhood residents appear before the commission and show their support of the plan, Amoco's case will be much stronger, he said. Several residents at the meeting signed letters saying they approved of Amoco's plan.
"I would support it wholeheartedly if we can get a turn lane" on Hudson Lane, Beers said. The turn lane would smooth out traffic problems in the area, Beers said.
At the meeting, Amoco representatives told residents they are committed to the community's safety. They said they will try to improve the community's traffic problems by requesting a turn lane and offered to join the Neighborhood Crime Watch organization.
"We want to be a good neighbor," Fitzgerald said.