City certifies petition calling for vote on planned MLS stadium

McKalla Place rendering 2 Courtesy Gensler and Austin FC_1547615079040.jpg.jpg

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Monday, the Clerk of the City of Austin certified a petition with over 26,000 valid signatures calling for a new city ordinance that would require voter approval to allow a professional sports team to use public land tax-free.

The ordinance would require sports teams to pay property taxes if they want to use public land for private profit, according to a press release by political action committee, Fair Play Austin.

Austin City Council must approve the ordinance or allow Austin citizens to vote on it.

A rendering of the McKalla Place stadium. Courtesy Gensler and Austin FC. 

Mayor Steve Adler does not think this petition will jeopardize the Major League Soccer deal, no matter when the ordinance hits the ballot.

The City of Austin told KXAN a special initiative election can be held on, but not before, the November 5, 2019 uniform election date.

“I would suspect the stadium’s going to be under construction before the vote could happen, but even if it wasn’t, this has progressed to the point where the petition can’t undo it,” Adler said in a January interview with KXAN.

“If it makes it on to the ballot I will be working against it just because it’s the wrong thing for us to do,” Adler said.

Chris Lippincott, a spokesperson for Fair Play Austin, says Austin citizens deserve a say on the McKalla Place stadium deal.

“Austin residents and locally owned businesses already pay some of the highest property taxes in the state,” Lippincott said. “Those taxes have forced Austin icons like Threadgill’s, the Frisco Shop, and the East Side Cafe to relocate or close their doors forever. So if we are being asked to give hundreds of millions of dollars in property-tax breaks to an out-of-state billionaire’s for-profit venture, then we deserve an opportunity to approve the deal at the ballot box.”

“Major League Soccer can be great for Austin, but only if our city’s leaders play fair,” Lippincott said. “The Austin City Council should not be picking winners and losers, and local taxpayers should not be subsidizing a private and very profitable enterprise.”

Austin FC President Andy Loughnane doesn’t believe the petition will affect stadium construction with the organization planning to break ground in September of this year.

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