Amarillo, TX - Amarillo voters will decide the future of the downtown multi-purpose event venue (MPEV) this November.
For nearly three hours, the Amarillo City Council heard feedback from residents about the hotel, parking garage and MPEV. All three catalyst projects were on the agenda, but the council only took action on the MPEV.
The council members were supposed to vote on whether to proceed with the downtown convention hotel and parking garage. Previous councils passed the proposed projects in 2011 and 2014, but Tuesday's updated financial plan did not make it past council member Randy Burkett.
Burkett asked for one more week to review the plans before making a decision. Mayor Paul Harpole and council member Brian Eades attempted to move forward with the vote despite his request. "We have a lot of people who have come down here tonight to express their opinions and they have expected us to have done that leg work," said Eades in response to Burkett's request. "They expect some action here tonight."
During public comments, opinions were divided on whether to move forward with the parking garage. Some were concerned about how the city will fill retail space on the ground level that is set to cost an estimated $5 million to build and find tenants.
One speaker handed each council member a folder of more than 90 letters from businesses across the city that echoed support of all three catalyst projects.
When it came time to vote, there was a tie. Burkett and Nair voted against the proposed projects, Harpole and Eades voted for them and Elisha Demerson abstained to prove a point. "This council must have civility among its members and every council member has the right to educate themselves on each issue," said Demerson. "Councilman Burkett asked for seven days to be able to visit one on one with the Local Government Corporation president just to assure himself of the numbers and the mayor would not give him those seven days."
The hotelier wants to start construction in September, but he can't until the council resolves the updated resolution for the parking garage and hotel.
However, action did move forward on the MPEV. Nair, Demerson and Burkett voted to put it on the November ballot.
Harpole and Eades tried to push the vote to the election in May, but their amendment did not pass.
Their suggestion came after Bill Gilliland and Laura Street announced that they raised more than $2 million in private funds to support the MPEV in just the past four days. The two urged the council for more time so they can educate the community about what the MPEV could be before residents are asked to vote on it.
Many said the problem with putting the MPEV to a vote is at this time no one knows what the MPEV is. "It was a well thought out concept that we wanted a multipurpose event venue," said Local Government Corporation President Richard Brown. "But a concept is not the same thing as an architectural or engineering plan. It's not the same thing as having something specific to say I'm for or against it. So if you want a visceral reaction of if you want a baseball park or not, you can put it on the ballot, but that is not what we're proposing."
As for the parking garage and the hotel, those will be on the agenda next week so Burkett has time to review the financial plan.