JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There has been no lack of drama when it comes to the debate over Lot J, the controversial entertainment project next to the Jacksonville Jaguars stadium.
The drama continued Monday after City Council President Tommy Hazouri said he plans to delay a vote on the project until January because there is just too much at stake with taxpayer dollars.
He said waiting until after the first of the year is the best route.
“You can’t expect us to rubberstamp legislation‚” Hazouri told News4Jax on Monday. “It’s not about a delay and it’s not about rushing, it’s about doing the right thing.”
Hazouri said he has given the mayor a pathway and hopes that the issues can be resolved after the first of the year. Hazouri said he would like to see a final vote on Jan. 12.
Mayor Lenny Curry and his staff have been pushing for a vote on Lot J sooner rather than later.
“There have been several public meetings for City Council members to ask questions for hours. Unfortunately, as your news station has covered, some of those meetings are less than productive and council members were not afforded the opportunity so they rely on one-on-one meetings with the development team in the administration to get those. We spent over 30 hours with council staff to address their concerns,” said Jordan Elsbury, Chief of Staff for Mayor Curry.
Some City Council members have said the reason they are concerned about passing the Lot J legislation right now is because of the JEA debacle. News4Jax asked Elsbury if that is a legitimate concern.
“What we have now is a very public conversation, the very public negotiation that City Council has been participating in for two months. So they are very much involved in this and they weren’t tremendously involved in the prior JEA endeavor,” Elsbury said.
News4Jax contacted several council members about Lot J. All have said there is support for the project but several want more time to review the overall plans.
Councilman Reggie Gaffney has scheduled a meeting to discuss Lot J at 1 p.m. Tuesday, ahead of Tuesday’s night’s City Council meeting.
Councilman Garrett Dennis, who has been at odds with the Curry administration over many issues, said he supports the idea of the Lot J development but also supports waiting until all questions have been answered.
News4Jax asked Dennis what he thinks will happen if the Lot J project is brought up at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
“Really and truly, if any councilmember forces a vote on a quarter of $1 billion burden on taxpayers, shame on them. It will be a regrettable night if anyone tries to force a vote on Tuesday‚” Dennis said.
So the drama over Lot J could play out Tuesday night if a majority of council members vote to bring it up for discussion.
If that happens, there could be a final vote later this week if a special council meeting is called before members take their Christmas break. Still, if the council president has his way, the real fireworks over Lot J won’t be until 2021.