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Jax Daily Record Sunday, Dec. 6, 202011:50 AM EST

Council President Hazouri: No Lot J vote until Jan 12

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Members could override him, but project Council proponent Bowman says the bill doesn’t appear to have the momentum for a vote this week.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

City Council President Tommy Hazouri said he will not bring up Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s $450 million Lot J project for discussion or a final vote before Dec. 11. 

In a Dec. 5 news release, Hazouri said he would not put Ordinance 2020-0648 on the Council meeting agenda addendum, despite a request Dec. 4 from Jaguars lobbyist and attorney Paul Harden to take up the bill before year-end.

“It is asking too much for the 19 Council members to fully process over 200 pages of very complex financial and legal documents in less than 36 hours and be prepared to take this important vote,” Hazouri wrote.

City Council President Tommy Hazouri

Hazouri said he intends to bring the legislation and its $245.3 million city incentives package up for debate and amendments at a Jan. 7 Committee of the Whole meeting and schedule a final vote Jan. 12.

A two-thirds majority of the Council could override Hazouri’s move and put Khan’s mixed-use entertainment, retail, residential and hotel project on the agenda Dec. 8, according to Council rules. 

It would take 13 Council members to discharge the bill from the committee and another two-thirds vote to pass it.

Council member Aaron Bowman, who has been openly critical of Hazouri’s leadership in the Lot J debate, said he’s not sure if there is support to move the bill before 2021.  

“(The) president is only one vote like everyone else but public comment from other Council members does not appear to have a momentum to discharge,” Bowman said in a text message Dec. 6.  

Council member Aaron Bowman

Bowman said he’s reviewing the bill but wants Lot J to happen. 

“It will be amazing for our city. I think it’s ready,” he said. “Delay at this time is just a stall tactic with no end goal, hoping it just goes away so you don’t have to vote yes or no.” 

Hazouri’s response to pressure from Jaguars representative comes as the team and its Lot J development partner, The Cordish Companies of Baltimore, worked with city attorneys over the weekend to incorporate a list of recommended changes to the development agreement from the Downtown Investment Authority and Council Auditor Kim Taylor.

Harden argued in his Dec. 4 letter that Council could use the latest changes to amend the bill, resolve final issues and vote on Lot J at the Dec. 8 meeting.

Hazouri’s release says he wants the longer timeline so the agreement can be “thoroughly digested” and “intelligently discussed” before the first full Council meeting of 2021.

The bill includes $208 million in city bond debt to fund the project proposed by the Mayor Lenny Curry administration that Taylor estimates will cost taxpayers $395.8 million with interest over 30 years.

The city is funding half of the Lot J project west of TIAA Bank Field and will retain ownership of the development’s Live! District, residential parking garages and 600-space surface parking lot. 

“I have been a proud ticket holder of the Jacksonville Jaguars Football Team for 25 years and I want nothing more than to see the team succeed and have a long, successful, and prosperous life here in our hometown,” Hazouri wrote. 

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