News Article | 6/10/2010

Economy should benefit from City Council action


The City Council deserves kudos for the work it did Tuesday evening.


First, the council voted unanimously to approve Dallas-based Hillwood as the master developer for Cecil Commerce Center.


Hillwood, owned by the Ross Perot family, has a solid record of success.


After more than a decade of very little happening at the city-owned center, that’s exactly what is needed here.


When it was proposed that the Navy might return a master jet base to Cecil, Jacksonville’s voters said no, stick with the plans to develop the commerce center and to bring jobs and businesses to the Westside.


City Councilman Daniel Davis co-sponsored the Hillwood legislation.


“I think what you did tonight has taken a huge leap forward in fulfilling what the voters said they wanted,” Davis told his colleagues.


“I promise it’s going to result in thousands of jobs.”


The deal had opposition, mainly from large landowners who also develop industrial parks.


But if Davis is correct, all of Jacksonville will benefit.


With the economy still hurting, Jacksonville needs jobs, jobs, jobs. Now.


In another unanimous vote, the council took the final step in ending a dispute that has lasted for more than 20 years – how to meet the city’s obligation to provide parking for the Jacksonville Landing.


The Landing’s owner, Toney Sleiman, has been arguing ever since he bought the downtown landmark that he needed the promised parking to attract the nationally known restaurant and entertainment chains that would bring customers to the Landing and make it a success.


With this deal, Sleiman gets $3.5 million from the city to purchase a surface lot at the corner of Bay and Hogan streets. The 300 parking spaces there will do the trick, Sleiman says.


Now that the city’s parking obligation is met, the burden is on Sleiman to perform.


After the vote, he told me he was meeting next month with a nationally known brewery about putting a brew pub in the Landing.


For downtown to succeed, the Landing needs to succeed and that would be a step in the right direction.


In another highlight Tuesday evening, the council approved another bill introduced by Davis that refines the city’s sign ordinance.


The changes will allow real estate companies to use roadside signs within one mile of a subdivision, open house or model home being advertised.


Each sign will require a $100 permit fee and can only be displayed from 3 p.m. Friday to 3 p.m. Sunday.


The revenue from the fees will help pay for the removal of the ubiquitous “snipe” signs that are illegally posted in public rights-of-way.


The money also will allow for stricter enforcement against those who use the signs to advertise weight loss programs, cash for cars, etc.


The legislation is a good example of sides often in conflict working together.


Davis and attorney Bill Brinton, a staunch advocate of the city’s sign ordinance and protecting the city’s scenic views, and representatives of real estate companies got together and came up with the improvements.


It was a very good night for the council.