Mayor Joe Hogsett’s plan to create an additional professional sports development area in downtown Indianapolis was introduced to the City-County Council on Monday with two additional council sponsors—and questions over the committee assignment for the proposal.

The proposed taxing district is part of Hogsett’s attempt to create a funding mechanism to support an undisclosed ownership group’s application for a Major League Soccer expansion team in Indianapolis. The measure calls for the approval of a map that specifies more than 120 non-contiguous addresses throughout the downtown area that would be incorporated into the PSDA, which would provide funding for a soccer stadium to be developed on land adjacent to the Downtown Heliport on the east side of downtown.

In December, the council, by a 23-1 vote, approved a different PSDA at the former Diamond Chain site on the west side of downtown to support a proposed soccer stadium development by the owners of the Indy Eleven soccer team. That project is already under development by Indianapolis-based Keystone Group, whose owner, Ersal Ozdemir, also co-owns the Indy Eleven, which plays in the second-tier USL Championship league.

The mayor’s plan, if successful, would essentially doom the Indy Eleven stadium project—and the team’s goal of eventually playing in the MLS—because the state has authorized approval of only one PSDA application.

When the previous PSDA plan was approved by the City-County Council, the proposal first was heard by the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee. In a written statement issued before Monday’s council meeting, Keystone Group called Council President Vop Osili’s decision to assign the proposal to the Rules and Public Policy Committee, an “unprecedented decision to deny the City-County Council’s Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee an opportunity to fairly judge” the tax-district proposal.

Osili, who chairs the Rules and Public Policy Committee and sponsored the mayor’s proposal, said Monday that he made a last-minute decision to sponsor the measure in order for it to be introduced. Councilor Kristin Jones, a Democrat representing the area who would typically be called on to sponsor such a measure, said earlier this month that she wouldn’t sponsor the proposal and was aware of a councilor who would.

In explaining the committee assignment, Osili said public hearings are required by state law to give a 10-day notice to make Indianapolis residents aware of the hearing. The next scheduled Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee meeting, on May 20, would have come too soon to meet the 10-day criteria, he said.

Democratic City-County Councilor Jesse Brown also questioned the committee switch. In a newsletter to constituents, he expressed skepticism about the proposal being assigned to a different committee solely due to the 10-day notice requirement.

“I was personally told by others that it was being moved to Rules because it was contentious, not because of the timing,” he wrote.

The proposal gained two additional Democratic sponsors prior to Monday’s introduction, which involved a reading from the council clerk and no discussion. Council Vice President Ali Brown and Councilor Ron Gibson attached their names to the proposal. Brown is also a member of the 11-member Rules and Public Policy Committee.

Gibson told IBJ after the meeting that he supports the measure because of the funding gap cited by Hogsett administration officials for ending negotiations with the Indy Eleven and because of the former burial ground that exists below the Eleven Park site.

Osili did not directly answer a question about the support he expects the proposal to receive from the council.

“Let’s get the public input first, let’s have that opportunity,” Osili said. “And then I think I could probably tell you more, based on what we’re hearing from the public.”

If the Rules and Public Policy Committee rejects the proposal, the measure will still receive a vote at the next full council meeting on June 3. Instead of being recommended for approval, it would include a caveat that it is recommended for denial.

Councilors will hear public comment and vote on the proposal at the next meeting of the Rules and Public Policy Committee on Tuesday, May 28, at 5:30 p.m.

If the proposal gets council approval, it would return to the Metropolitan Development Commission for another vote.

In order to create the district, city officials said the legislative process must be complete and the proposal ready to submit to the state by June 30.
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