Last night, Mayor Steve Adler celebrated the founding of Austin’s first major league sports team with Austin FC President Anthony Precourt and MLS Commissioner Don Garber. The accounts of the celebration in the press today do not suggest that soccer fans should doubt that they will soon be cheering their team on at a brand new stadium at McKalla Place.
However, the effort to derail the stadium is still very much alive. Former Travis County Judge Bill Aleshire, who loves to sue the city and often wins, said in an email that he shared with me that he anticipates litigation over the stadium deal, whether or not he is involved.
I’m not retained to do anything about the petition, but the city will likely get sued successfully to require them to call the election for May. The city charter prohibits “special” elections within 6 months of each other, but the November election was a “general “ election. This Mayor and Council majority already lost one lawsuit thinking they could block such an election.For the taxpayers of Austin, I can tell you that this deal stinks regardless of whether it ends up in Court. The petition is trying to prevent such taxpayer ripoffs from happening again, regardless of whether the petitioned ordinance would apply to the Precourt ripoff.I’ve only just recently had time to begin reviewing the 194-page deal, and it appears to have changed a lot since the Council’s Term Sheet was voted on. One thing a friend pointed out to me is the broad permissible uses in the lease for the McKalla site. That broad laundry list jeopardizes whether it qualifies for a property tax exemption under laws that are more narrow for tax exemptions than the uses allowed under the agreement. For example, movie theaters and museums don’t qualify for property tax exemptions, yet those are permissible uses. So, if being property exempt is important to Precourt and his follower investors, they should be nervous, very nervous. And no one from the city has ever explained how you can take an asset paid for with Water Utility service charges and bastardize the use of a Water Utility asset for a soccer field. Why should anyone have a higher water bill in Austin so a for-profit soccer promoter can be given that asset without full remuneration to the Water Utility customers?
I talked to another legal source close to the anti-MLS effort recently who echoed the property tax argument. The referendum likely cannot undo the city’s agreement to provide the land to Precourt, but Council may not be able to guarantee the property tax exemption that Precourt demanded.
The folks close to Precourt –– Richard Suttle et al –– have said that the deal is set in stone. It’s impossible to know whether or not they believe that or are simply saying that to prevent the MLS and investors from freaking out.
At this point, I’m definitely not in a place to say what the law might say about these issues. But I wouldn’t want to bet against Aleshire in court.
At this point, I have no idea who is going to win this soccer fight.
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