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Controversy over probation office move continues

Plans to convert the old Coca-Cola plant on north Palafox to a probation office has North Hill residents concerned.

At a meeting Monday, the city council gave little insight on why this probation center is allowed in the neighborhood.

The probation office is currently located on North Davis Highway.
That lease is about to expire and they want to move closer to downtown.
Right now, the probation office is where offenders check in with their supervisors.
People who live in the area have questions about the zoning laws.

Channel three's Jenise Fernandez has more.

This probation office would be nearby a playground like this and a school.
There could be hundreds of offenders there every day, that's why residents in North Hill are concerned.

The Pensacola City Council listened to concerned residents at a meeting Monday, but several council members say they don't have enough information, and believe it's a matter for the state.    
Council President, Jewel Cannda-Wynn, made a motion to have this item removed from Thursday's agenda.
That motion outraged many of the residents, who say they deserve to have their voices heard.

Melanie Nichols
"We will do everything we can to make the state enforce their laws.. we will not go lying down."

But the motion failed and the council will discuss this further at their meeting Thursday.
Here's the issue:  Pensacola's land development code has the Coca-Cola plant in a C-3 commercial zone, that allows wholesale and limited industry.
Community correctional centers are found in M-1 zones.    
This probation office is listed within the community corrections organizational chart on the Florida Department of Corrections website.
Residents worry the office is too close to a playground, a high school, and homes. Hundreds of offenders are expected to visit the office on a daily basis.

Byron Keesler
"They could be there for other reasons... checking out the playground, god forbid."

But the city issued a building permit in January anyway. Construction is already underway.
And while state law requires a public hearing before such an establishment is built that never happened.
Residents want to know why a permit was issued in the first place.

"No one knew about it..."

Unfortunately, the city council did not have answers either.

By the time we got started on this story, government offices had closed for the day.
We have calls out to Pensacola Planning Services to see if they know why a permit was issued.
We'll continue to bring you the latest as we get it.
For now, reporting in Pensacola, Jenise Fernandez, Channel Three News.