County delays vote on tower, Jack Tar incentives

Apr. 28, 2014 @ 09:39 PM

County Commissioners on Monday postponed a vote on whether to add another $4 million to the business-incentive package that a Colorado firm seeks to build a new skyscraper downtown and renovate the former Jack Tar Motel.

It wasn’t clear when the deal might return to the agenda. Commissioners Chairman Michael Page said only that it “will be taken up at a later date.”

County Manager Wendell Davis said later that officials opted for the delay because they “hadn’t finished negotiations” with the project’s would-be developer, Austin Lawrence Partners.

The county has been asked to match a City Council offer of $4 million that city elected officials approved last week.

But Davis said county leaders are “not exactly” looking to sign the identical contract, having “some other provisions in there that we were concerned about.”

“And so, without saying too much, we want to get through those,” he said. “It was probably two or three sticking points.”

The points involve “some assignment issues and probably opt-out” provisions, Davis said. He declined to elaborate to avoid putting “anybody in an unfair position” as talks continue.

The city’s contract included an “assignment” provision that barred Austin Lawrence from transferring its performance obligations and rights to incentive payments to another developer without the city’s permission.

It was not clear what Davis meant by opt-out provisions.

The city’s contract includes an assortment of performance clauses that condition any payments to Austin Lawrence on the company meeting construction deadlines, preserving historic storefronts and securing tenants for the project.

Austin Lawrence had been operating on the assumption that both the city’s and county’s end of the deal would wrap up by the end of this month.

Monday’s decision means there’s no chance of that, as commissioners aren’t scheduled to meet again until they gather for a morning work session early next week. Their next scheduled business meeting is May 12.

Company president Greg Hills told the City Council that postponements would have a ripple effect on the project’s schedule but wouldn’t “kill the deal.”

“To have it all done in April allows us to keep moving the process forward,” he said last week.

Neither Hills nor the local business leaders who normally attend incentives hearings were in the audience for Monday’s commissioners meeting, a sign that county officials had relayed word of their intentions in advance.