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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Nov. 13, 201909:50 AM EST

Plan to put $1.55 million into Downtown Historic Preservation and Revitalization Trust Fund withdrawn

Instead of a fund, Downtown Investment Authority wants money budgeted as needed for historic projects.

By Mike Mendenhall & Katie Garwood • Staff Writers

A bill that would have injected $1.55 million into the city's Downtown Historic Preservation and Revitalization Trust Fund was withdrawn Tuesday from City Council consideration.

Group 4 At-large Council member Matt Carlucci

Ordinance 2019-747, filed by Group 4 At-large Council member Matt Carlucci, was intended to replenish the fund for adaptive reuse projects.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Council President Scott Wilson moved to withdraw the legislation because of a lack of support.

The motion was approved 16-2, with Carlucci and Council member Garrett Dennis voting against withdrawing the bill.

Support for the legislation evaporated after others in the city, including Downtown Investment Authority CEO Lori Boyer, said that instead of a trust fund, money should be budgeted as needed for historic projects.

Boyer said setting a specific trust balance creates a perceived limit of the program’s capability to finance projects. That perception could deter developers from taking on adaptive reuse projects.

Carlucci said he knew the legislation “wasn't going to make it.”

“Just because the DIA did not support investing $1.5 million into the Downtown Historic Trust Fund, even though the mayor's administration spoke against the bill, and just because a majority of my good friends up here voted against it, that doesn't mean you guys are right. It just means you got more votes than I did,” Carlucci said at Tuesday's Council meeting. “We missed our chance, and I respect that, but I had to get that out.”

The bill also was voted down by two Council committees — a 4-3 vote by the Neighborhoods, Community Service, Public Health and Safety Committee on Nov. 4 and 7-0 by the Finance Committee on Nov. 5.

Finance Committee Chair Aaron Bowman said the budget-as-needed approach for the program appeared to be the best option.

“What I see right now is a system that's working,” Bowman said. “With this DIA, this administration and this Council, it's supported at all levels. Nothing is not getting funded. I don't see a reason to park the money.”

Carlucci said the fund would create certainty for developers.

“It's an investment and it's a sales tool. That's what it is, and that was the original intent — if we put the dollars into the fund it would attract people and attract developers, and it did. It worked,” Carlucci said at the Nov. 5 Finance Committee meeting.

“It might be working fine but I believe if we infuse money in this, it will work better,” he said.

As the debate continued at the Finance Committee, some of the bill's backers began to question the need the sequester the money.

Council members Michael Boylan and Randy DeFoor were listed as the bill's co-authors, and members Ju’Coby Pittman, Joyce Morgan, Brenda Priestly Jackson and Council Vice President Tommy Hazouri co-sponsored.

During the committee meeting, DeFoor said she couldn't support appropriating money to an independent authority that doesn't see the need for it.

“My issue, and I'm talking to you Mr. Carlucci, is the DIA doesn't want the money,” DeFoor said. “I'm really at a loss here. I suggest that we play it out for a little bit and maybe bring it (the bill) back another time if circumstances have changed.”

Finance Committee Vice Chair LeAnna Cumber said she worried that sequestering $1.55 million in the middle of a budget year for a nonemergency would not show “fiscal responsibility.”

“We spent a month going through the budget for this year. The mayor sent a very tight budget,” Cumber said Nov 5. “We shouldn't be putting money away and aside that we're going to use for this year for something that isn't going to come due this year.”

Carlucci was Council president in 2001 when a task force led to the creation of the trust.

In 2002, $10 million was set aside for the fund. By the end of the 2018-19 fiscal year, the balance was $820,000.

Since 2017, the trust fund has operated like other city-backed financial incentives programs. The trust fund is used primarily as a pass-through for the DIA and city to appropriate budgeted awards on an annual basis.

The grant money is not awarded until the developer satisfies the terms of its redevelopment agreement with the city after project completion.

Like a completion grant or Recaptured Enhanced Value grant, money is not set aside and earmarked for the project the day a historic preservation grant is approved.






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