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On tap for City Council: nonprofit oversight, $30M for Riverside development, utility agreement

Jacksonville City Hall
Brendan Rivers

Jacksonville City Council members today will vote on whether to implement stricter rules for funding nonprofits with city money.

Also on deck for the meeting is whether taxpayers should contribute $30 million to a Riverside development project, and a plan to rezone a shuttered school in the Northside for affordable housing.

Here’s what to watch for:

Extra oversight of money for nonprofits

Council members are set to vote on stricter rules for nonprofits vying for city funds. Organizations would have to provide extra financial documents and disclose their ties to council members and their family members. 

The proposal comes after the council, in September, gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to nonprofits that council members ran or worked for. The bill passed two council committees last week and failed in a tied vote in one committee.

Council member Reggie Gaffney, whose organization was the recipient of the largest of those grants, opposed the bill in committee.

“It's basically what we've been doing all along.," Gaffney said. "It's basically what the state does, basically what the federal government does, based on what I've been told, so at this point, I'm not going to support it.”

The council had waived competitive bidding rules already in place for some of the funds it gave out to council members’ organizations in September.

The bill in front of Council today would apply only to city funds, not federal or state grants that the city distributes, like the American Rescue Plan dollars council members gave to handpicked organizations last month. Bill sponsor Rory Diamond says that’s on deck for the future if today's vote goes in his favor.

"I'm going to follow this up with another bill that covers state and federal funds, but it's one step at a time," Diamond said. "I wanted to get this done. And then I'll be following up with a state and federal bill, which will be almost exactly the same."

The proposal is the last item on council's agenda.

$30M for Riverside development

Also on tap for tonight’s meeting is whether taxpayers should contribute 30 million dollars to subsidize developers’ plans to demolish the former Times-Union building in Riverside and replace it with apartments and shops. 

Council will vote on a plan to demolish the former headquarters at 1 Riverside Ave. to build a grocery store, apartment complex and parking garage. Private developers, led by Fuqua Acquisitions, plan to invest $163 million in the project.

The city is offering to pay for about 15% of the development, with a price tag of $30 million in taxpayer-funded grants. The plan passed unanimously in council committees.

Northside school rezoning for affordable housing

Council is also take up a controversial plan to replace a former Northside elementary school with affordable housing. Lake Forest Elementary School was shut down two years ago for underperformance, and the Duval County School Board has since signed off on a plan to sell the land to affordable housing developer Ability Housing.

But neighbors have been adamantly fighting the plan during City Council committee meetings, saying the school district didn't get their input on what to do with the former school. What happens at Lake Forest Elementary School could be a model for similar projects at other schools the district plans to demolish. 

Both the school district and Ability Housing have said they would consider partnering again. The district is set to demolish 44 schools, build 28 new ones and sell off about a dozen plots of land using the half-cent sales tax increase Duval voters approved last year.

JEA agreement on rural utilities

Jacksonville’s utility has come to a last-minute agreement with a Ponte Vedra-based developer in a simmering conflict that could have led to the privatization of utility service on a vast swath of Jacksonville’s Westside, according to reporting by the Florida Times-Union.

The developer asked the state to let it deliver water and sewage services to a 7,000-acre tract of land that’s slated for more than 11,000 homes. JEA said the developer’s move violated its sole right to serve the area, while the developer said JEA didn’t have the capacity to serve so many new houses.

Under the agreement reached Monday, the developers will plan and build facilities to produce and treat water and wastewater in the area. JEA will then purchase those facilities and provide the service to residents.

Jacksonville Today's Sydney Boles contributed to this report.