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First Coast

City's Battle With The Jacksonville Landing May Impact Fla.-Ga. Events

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Florida Times-Union file photo
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The annual Fla.-Ga. football game has traditionally been one of the busiest weekends of the year at the Landing.

The Jacksonville Landing has been a gathering spot for decades when party-ready fans roll into town for the Florida-Georgia game, but this year, the Landing and the city are locked in a bitter legal fight and the city has not yet issued a special events permit for concerts during that football game weekend.

Our Florida Times-Union news partner reports the Landing, built in 1987 as a festival marketplace staging year-round events, is challenging the city’s demand that the Landing apply for special events permits. The dispute is part of a larger courtroom battle over whether the city can evict the mall’s owners from the city-owned land.

While waiting for a judge’s ruling, the Landing has been applying for special events permits, including a request for weekend activities for the Florida-Georgia game that will be played Oct. 27.

City officials say the Landing applied Oct. 1 for the permit for Florida-Georgia events, well past the requirement for submitting applications 90 days in advance. The city must complete its review of whether it will waive that 90-day requirement before formally processing the permit, said the mayor’s Chief of Staff Brian Hughes.

“In light of recent events, coupled with the city’s significant public health and safety concerns, both the 90-day submission period waiver and special event permit are under careful consideration by the administration,” Hughes said.

“I can’t imagine it’s not in the interests of both sides to keep this from blowing up,” Blazs told the attorneys.

The Landing already is promoting festivities for Florida-Georgia on its web site and through social media like Facebook and Twitter.

The Landing’s web site invites Florida and Georgia fans to a “weekend celebration” running from noon Oct. 26 until 2 a.m. Oct. 27 with concerts on two outdoor stages. The web site says the Landing will charge a $10 entrance fee on that Friday and Saturday. Children 12 and under with a parent will get in free.

The promotion of the event brought a swift response from city attorneys.

In an Oct. 11 letter, Assistant General Counsel Christopher Garrett told Jacksonville Landing Investments that city law prohibits promoting an event before the city has issued a permit for it.

Garrett wrote that the city must do extensive planning to ensure the safety of tens of thousands of fans who converge on downtown during the weekend. He said the city told Jacksonville Landing Investments on June 14 that a special events permit would be needed for the activities, but the Landing “chose to wait to file an application for these events until less than 30 days remained” before the football game.

Garrett said the Landing gave the city “an extremely short time period for any review or consideration of the late application.”

The city did not previously require the Landing to get special events permits for Florida-Georgia activities or other events drawing large crowds.

Jacksonville Landing Investments, which is owned by the Sleiman family, argues in court that it does not have to apply for special events permits because city law contains an exemption for events taking place on public property that is leased to a private entity.

The Landing says that because the owners have a long-term lease for the six-acre tract owned by the city, the Landing qualifies for the exemption and does not have to apply for permits.

A longer version of this story about the legal battle between the city and Landing is at Jacksonville.com.