Beginning with the imminent land acquisition phase, the proposed $635 million Music City Center project could soon have a transparency Web site so those interested can track revenues as they come in, along with an itemization of expenditures.
The idea, introduced by District 22 Councilman Eric Crafton, was advanced in Monday’s Metro Council budget and finance committee meeting. Crafton’s amendment to add the transparency Web site by August was unanimously approved by the committee, though details are vague.
“I think that it’s very reasonable and I think the public would demand it,” Crafton said of the site.
So far the amendment is only for the land acquisition phase of the project. Crafton promised to introduce a similar amendment for the financing package once it is presented to Metro Council.
At the meeting, the land acquisition bill for the convention center project passed with an 11-1 vote. District 4 Councilman Michael Craddock was the lone dissenting vote. The bill will be on second reading at Tuesday’s Council meeting.
The bill would provide the Metro Development and Housing Agency with $75 million from previously approved tourism taxes to begin acquiring the necessary 16 acres to start construction of the proposed Music City Center. The last estimate for the project was $635 million, but no guaranteed maximum price has been provided by MDHA or Mayor Karl Dean’s office.
A public/private hotel will also be attached and a separate piece of legislation will have to be approved by Council.
At-large Councilwoman Megan Barry pointed out the committee was not giving a green light to the final project, but merely advancing debate on land acquisition for the project.
Crafton had introduced three amendments to the land acquisition bill. He withdrew one stating members of the public should have access to buying the municipal bonds sold for the deal after Finance Director Richard Riebeling announced that was already the case.
Another amendment — one that would have promised no general obligation funds be used to purchase the land — was unanimously defeated by the committee. The land acquisition bill already states that only revenue from the tourism related taxes would be used for land acquisition.
Riebeling reiterated the administration’s promise that no property tax pledge would be issued to help finance the project.
There is a piece of state legislation currently advancing that would allow Metro to create a new Convention Center Authority, which would oversee the project and issue the bonds to fund the deal. The administration amended that legislation earlier this year to state no property tax pledge would be used to back the bonds.
The administration has contended that the revenues generated by the tourism taxes and the surrounding Tourism Development Zone would be sufficient to pay back the bonds.
Riebeling also announced during the meeting that Metro has already spent $9 million on the pre-development phase of the project.