The debate on a proposed new $635 million convention center for SoBro resumes Monday afternoon when the Metro Council budget and finance committee considers a critical land acquisition bill on second reading.
Metro Council will vote on the land acquisition bill at its Tuesday meeting.
It’s the next hurdle for the project, which is years in the making. Some Council members do have reservations about providing the Metro Development and Housing Agency with the land acquisition funds before a comprehensive financing package is in place. Even still, there is a sense that the bill will pass second reading, even with questions lingering.
“You could have some members vote for it on second reading to advance the debate, but who still have questions they want answered before third reading,” District 6 Councilman Mike Jameson, whose district encompasses the project, said.
When Mayor Karl Dean’s administration filed the land acquisition bill last month, concerns were raised that Metro might be putting the cart before the horse by purchasing the land before seeing how Music City Center will be financed.
After state enabling legislation was passed, Metro Council created new tourism taxes intended to pay back debt issued to fund Music City Center. Some Council members worried that those funds could only be used for a new convention center and wondered what would happen if the land were purchased but the project never ultimately received the green light.
Metro Council attorney Jon Cooper released analysis of the bill, which states the tourism taxes could continue to be collected and used to retire the debt for land acquisition. The taxes could only be collected until the debt was retired, Cooper’s analysis states.
District 22 Councilman Eric Crafton said he wants to advance debate about the convention center as well, which is why he filed a nonbinding memorializing resolution stating Council wants Music City Center to be funded without any risk to taxpayers.
It’s the second time Crafton has filed the memorializing resolution, although this time he’s also calling for a transparency web site to be created. The site would detail revenues collected for the project and how they are spent.