Eugene city councilors declined Monday to ask voters in November if they would support the city’s purchase and use of the Eugene Water & Electric Board headquarters as the new City Hall.

The vote was 5-3. Councilors Mike Clark, Greg Evans and Jennifer Yeh supported further discussion of a referral of an advisory vote.

The council would have had to vote Wednesday to refer the advisory vote as that will be its last meeting before the council goes on its annual weeks-long summer recess. The filing deadline for the November election is in August.

Clark, who proposed the advisory vote, characterized it as a way for local residents to weigh in on a project that has bedeviled city leaders for years.

Clark said he recognized the vote would be nonbinding, meaning city councilors wouldn’t be legally required to adhere to the voters’ will.

“But with it we might gauge what the general public believes and be better served for how to make good decisions on this,” said Clark, who has long supported reusing the EWEB building as Eugene’s municipal center.

Repurposing the EWEB building as City Hall using urban renewal dollars could free up dollars already dedicated to the project to put toward a homeless shelter and “kill two very large birds with one stone,” Clark said.

Clark said after the meeting that he wasn’t giving up on the idea and strongly believes the vast majority of residents support it.

Other councilors expressed concerns about the location of the EWEB headquarters, the impact of an advisory vote on the current option being explored for the new City Hall, and the usefulness of an advisory vote given that many voters aren’t up to speed on all of the project’s particulars.

Without that base of knowledge, Councilor Chris Pryor said, “you have the public basically giving you a popularity contest.”

“It’s not a matter of which (option) looks nicer. It’s a matter of what’s going to be the best site going forward for the next 100 years,” Pryor continued. “I know some of us think it should be this and some think it should be that. I think that conversation should still occur within this body.”

The city intends to site the new City Hall on the northern half of the county-owned “butterfly” parking lot located across from the county courthouse.

But that plan is contingent on a judge’s ruling that would allow the city and county to finalize the proposed downtown land swap.

Under the agreement, the city would sell its vacant City Hall block to Lane County for construction of a new county courthouse. In exchange, the county would sell the butterfly parking lot for a new City Hall and public square.

The county has filed a lawsuit against the heirs of city founders Eugene and Mary Skinner to clear up the legal uncertainty surrounding the proposed land exchange.

The city has set a Dec. 1 deadline for the county to resolve the legal uncertainty, or it could walk away from the deal.

The city had planned to build City Hall on the vacant block’s southwest quadrant. But city councilors shelved the project and began discussions with Lane County in 2016 as the estimated total cost of that project ballooned to about $28 million — $10 million more than the council-authorized budget.

The city completed demolition of the old City Hall, which served as Eugene’s municipal center for a half-century, in 2015 because of concerns that the building was antiquated and vulnerable to earthquake.

EWEB will largely vacate its headquarters by year’s end, consolidating most of its employees at its operations center in west Eugene.

Earlier this year, EWEB commissioners decided to wait before putting the 30-year-old building on the market with the hope that the development of the utility’s neighboring riverfront property — now owned by the city — will increase its eventual sales price.