By: Rachel Hawkins, NDG Staff Writer
The long-discussed controversy related to the Toyota Music Factory construction project was the hot topic of the Sept. 6 Irving City Council meeting.
Several members of a taxpayer advocacy group called Irving Concerned Citizens for Fairness at Irving Toyota Music Factory, and representatives of the ARK Group gathered and expressed their concerns over the reimbursement payment from taxpayer funds to the ARK Group, the developer for the project.
The item on the agenda was Item 46: Resolution – Authorizing Reimbursement Payment in the Amount of $44,000,000 to the ARK Group of Irving, Inc. for Capital Infrastructure Improvements Within the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone No. One. This topic was added to the agenda at the request of Council Members Dennis Webb, Phil Riddle, and John Danish.
During the meeting, the attendees discovered the city council members recently received more information on the project’s allegations, and therefore pushed the Sept. 20 voting decision to the Oct. 4 council meeting.
“I stood in front of you (the city council) many years ago, and Danish, Mayor Pro Tem asked me, ‘Will you and your father make us proud?’ Noah Lazes, president of ARK Group said. “And I stand before you tonight to tell you we have done such. We have done everything we could have possibly done to make the entertainment center the best it can possibly be.
“Though there have been many bumps in the road, I stand here tonight asking you (the Irving City Council members) for your recommitment to our partnership and to the entertainment center,” Lazes said. “We can be the best entertainment center in the country. We need your help and support.”
Lazes and his team received a five-page list of demands or prerequisites of achieving reimbursement of the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement. He confirmed they have completed everything on the list and complied with the requests. The only item they asked the city council to eliminate from the list was the Sambuca wall.
While there were several speakers on the reimbursement matter, the city council refused to let speakers parlay their time to another speaker.
“I have hundreds of petitions calling on the City of Irving calling to investigate our concerns before allocating these monies to the ARK Group,” Anthony Bond, a member of the Irving Concerned Citizens for Fairness at Irving Toyota Music Factory, has reported. “My question to Dennis and John, who put this on the agenda, why did you do it? I heard Mr. Riddle’s reasoning is that you wanted the public to know. And that’s a good reasoning. But I am still questioning why are we here tonight,” Bond said. “Getting this on the agenda when there was no way in the world the conditions could’ve been met so you could all properly vote on this tonight.”
There was a letter sent to Chris Hillman stating there was a procedure required to be followed before the disbursement of funds.
“It has to go through the TIF board. The TIF board then has to meet and approve it and then bring it to the council. After I read that letter, on Aug. 30, our city manager office received hundreds of pages of unpaid liens,” Bond said.
“We’ve talked about that,” Mayor Rick Stopfer said. He asked if everyone agrees the TIF board should really have any say in this or not? “If you think they don’t have any say and we just go around them, then that’s one thing,” Stopfer added.
He also addressed the tremendous volume of documents the staff must review.
“The staff has been asking for this paperwork since February. And they just started getting it three weeks ago. It took them three weeks to get through one of the 16 proposals that have been sent through. This past Thursday, before the city council meeting, the staff received 1,600 pages.
Stopfer stated the staff should have the opportunity they need, which is more time to review the papers; and by putting something on the agenda, the attendees will continue to hear the same thing over and over. People voting up or down from people on both sides, which will lead to the same discussion over and over again.