The expected challenge to City Council President Tommy Hazouri’s call to delay a vote on the Lot J deal failed to materialize at Tuesday’s meeting after Jaguars President Mark Lamping agreed to the delay, saying it was “completely understandable” for the council to wait until January.
Over the next three weeks, OurJax encourages you to enlist your family members, friends, and neighbors to let council members know the Lot J deal must include several protections for taxpayers recommended by the City Council auditor that are currently not in the proposal.
Tell council members we need the council auditor recommended safeguards:
- the city has the right to stop funding if the Guarantor (Jaguars/Cordish Companies) is in default of any obligation under the Development Agreement.
- payments to the Guarantor (Jaguars/Cordish Companies) be disbursed by the city on percentages of project completion. The auditor asked for “full visibility” into actual Direct Costs incurred.
- if the REV grant is terminated, the full amount should not be applied as a credit for the developer, and the developer should not have the ability to determine how any shortfall is paid.
- any cost overruns should not count against any shortfall.
- the city should share in any profits realized by the Developer (Jaguars/Cordish) from the transfer (sale) of any development rights.
- the city have approval rights over all improvements to Live!, to the plaza and to the walkway.
- language should be added to protect both parties in the event of a breach of contract. The Jaguars/Cordish refused.
Each of these recommendations is foundational, and city council should insist on them before approving the Lot J proposal.
OurJax has additional concerns that should be addressed prior to any approval:
- Mayor Curry has bypassed normal negotiating procedures and institutional review protections faced by all other developers.
- If the developer abandons the Lot J development project, sells the deal to some other party, or Shad Khan moves the NFL franchise to another location, under the current proposal, there are no penalties or claw backs imposed upon the developer.
Council member Randy DeFoor was quite frank Tuesday about why the need for claw backs are needed, telling Lamping:
“You are asking this city for over $200 million and we’re simply saying and taking you at your word that you’re going to stay here in Jacksonville, and if that’s the case, this should be a ‘gimme’ for you,” DeFoor said. “It should not be a problem at all. I think it’s insulting, quite frankly, that you wouldn’t agree to that.”
- After reviewing the proposal, the Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) staff said the $65 million, no-interest “bread box loan” to the developer was not needed.
- The council auditor estimates interest payments on the borrowed $208 city investment will exceed $150 million.
- No independent analysis has been conducted to determine market feasibility or compare the Lot J development with similar projects in other NFL cities.
- The city should conduct a thorough study to determine in what ways this unprecedented local public dollar investment in Lot J, will handicap the city with other, already identified infrastructure projects, and longtime community needs.
When you contact council members please make them aware of these deficiencies in the Lot J deal and insist they adopt the recommendations of the council auditor and the DIA staff.
Finally, in his Times-Union column Tuesday, Mark Woods asked a question that is coming more and more into the community conversation:
“How much is it going to cost to build Lot J, do major renovations on the stadium and help Khan build a Four Seasons hotel on what, at this moment in time, still is public land, preserved for perpetuity?”
“And, beyond all that, what is an NFL team worth?”
Please be safe during the holidays.
Michael J. Ward