Lot J Vote Stalls In City Council, Despite Pressure From Developer And Mayor

Dec 3, 2020

Jacksonville City Council President Tommy Hazouri has decided to temporarily stall Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s proposed $457 million Lot J development, despite pressure from the developer and Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration.

That comes after the city’s Downtown Investment Authority voted unanimously on Wednesday night to recommend that the City Council approve the deal — which includes more than $230 million in city investments — with some changes.

The DIA recommendations were sent to the City Council shortly after the vote, leaving members only hours to review materials before their 10 a.m. meeting on Thursday.

Related: DIA Sends Lot J Recommendations To City Council; Developer Agrees To Concessions

Several council members said during Thursday’s meeting that without more time and information, they are not prepared to vote on the Lot J bill.

“How in the world can we honestly, with due diligence and carrying out our fiduciary responsibilities, automatically just go out and vote for something that we just received?” Hazouri asked, rhetorically.

“There is a lot of information that I have not received,” Councilman Al Ferraro said. “I need the information to go in front of my constituents to be able to explain this.”

Jaguars lobbyist Paul Harden encouraged council members to find a way to vote on the Lot J bill by Tuesday’s meeting, offering to meet with the council auditor on Friday to work on the deal. “We’re working on a finite schedule,” he said.

There are still a dozen recommendations from auditors that the developers don’t agree with.

Several members of the council took issue with what came across as a push to rush a vote, including Matt Carlucci.

“I am not ready to vote for anything this Tuesday,” he said. “I have just found anytime you’re pressed up against a timeline on something like this, it is just fraught with red flags and problems.”

Related: UNF Poll: Most Jacksonville voters Oppose Proposed Lot J Deal

Activist and Northside Coalition founder Ben Frazier said the rush to move on the Lot J project is evidence that the city’s priorities are out of order.

“So you want to provide special benefits for a billionaire? The critical needs of the Northside, however, our cares and concerns [are] still on the back burner,” he said.

Earlier in the week, Mayor Lenny Curry encouraged City Council members to stop “stalling” and take a vote on his Lot J bill, hinting that Jacksonville could lose the Jaguars franchise if the deal falls through.

During Thursday’s meeting, Councilman Garrett Dennis directly asked Jaguars President Mark Lamping if Mayor Curry’s assertion was true. Lamping’s response was vague and elusive.

“We’re doing what we believe is necessary to ensure that NFL football is here in Northeast Florida for generations to come,” Lamping said.

Council President Hazouri’s deferral means the Lot J bill won’t be up for a final vote during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, though a vote could theoretically be forced with a two-thirds majority.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.