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- 2012 - June - 29th -

Office of Economic Development officially opens

by Joe Wilhelm Jr., Staff Writer

Mayor Alvin Brown signed Ordinance No. 2012-212 on Thursday morning, signaling the end of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission and the beginning of the Office of Economic Development.

The City Council unanimously approved the legislation Tuesday that was developed as part of the mayor’s efforts to reorganize and streamline City government.

“This is more than policy and it’s more than structure. It’s the conversation starter with business leaders wondering where to expand or relocate and it’s a solution for the nearly 38,000 people in our City who remain out of work and deserve a chance to rebuild themselves,” said Brown.

The Office of Economic Development replaces the JEDC’s commissioner system of oversight with a chief economic development officer to be appointed by the mayor and approved by Council.

The officer will be responsible for day-to-day and traditional economic development duties, such as incentive negotiation and enterprise zone management, while also managing the City’s efforts to attract sports, entertainment and special events.

Later Thursday, Council member Lori Boyer met with Council President Bill Bishop in a noticed meeting to discuss the next piece of the mayor’s reorganization plan, Ordinance No. 2012-0364, which will establish a Downtown Investment Authority. It will serve as sole development and community redevelopment agency for Downtown.

Bishop and Boyer were joined by Council member Greg Anderson and Council Vice President Bill Gulliford at the meeting at City Hall.

Boyer introduced some changes to the ordinance she wanted to present to the Council regarding the “Powers and Duties” of the authority.

Boyer called for change in the authority’s proposed power to borrow money.

“My concern was, since we have debt ceiling issues as a City, and this is a City agency, to give them an unrestricted right to borrow money in the name of the City, even if they are pledging city assets, would be potentially disastrous for us,” said Boyer.

She suggested limiting its borrowing ability to what is available in its trust fund.

Another issue was the authority’s power, under Chapter 163, Part III, Florida Statutes, to close or vacate streets, roads or other public rights-of-way.

“Right now, we don’t allow JEDC to do that. That goes to Council,” said Boyer.

“I agree with that because that is not what this organization is supposed to do,” said Bishop.

The third issue was with the authority’s power to zone and rezone.

“They have some limited authority to zone and rezone that we already granted to (Downtown Development Review Board),” said Boyer.

As part of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, the review board reviews and approves zonings, variances, exceptions and designs of new and rehabilitation projects in the Downtown area for compliance with the Downtown Master Plan, Downtown Zoning Overlay and the Downtown Sign Overlay.

No action was taken at the meeting because it was scheduled to discuss the ordinance.

jwilhelm@baileypub.com

356-2466

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