Santa Clara leaders have agreed to huddle up with legendary quarterback Joe Montana, who wants to build a four- or five-star hotel across from the San Francisco 49ers stadium.

The City Council on Tuesday night voted 4-2 to begin exclusive negotiations with the business group fronted by Montana. The vote was expected after officials in July promised to cooperate with Montana, who excited Niners fans when he unveiled the idea at a public meeting last year.

City leaders and Montana's group will have one year to battle over how much money the Hall of Fame player and his associates will contribute to the Santa Clara general fund for the right to build on city-owned land. Montana says he has the money to build a luxury hotel garnering at least four stars, a sports bar, an "upscale" restaurant and "additional entertainment uses" that would open with the new Niners stadium before the 2014 NFL season.

"This is a no-brainer," said Councilman Kevin Moore, a stadium supporter, who joked that apparently there was no interest from former superstar quarterback Brett Favre.

The project will be built on two city-owned lots totaling eight acres at Tasman Drive and Centennial Boulevard. Construction on half the land cannot start until work on an adjacent, new parking garage is complete later this year, while the other half is being used to store vehicles and equipment for the stadium project.

The two stadium critics on the council, Jamie McLeod and Will Kennedy, voted against the idea, saying the city should not give preferential treatment to Montana but rather open the land for all developers to submit project ideas. That's the best way to get the highest rent to beef up Santa Clara's shrinking budget, they said.

"I think it would be better to open it up for competition," Kennedy said.

But Councilwoman Lisa Gillmor, another stadium backer, said she was "perplexed" and found it "unbelievable" that anyone would oppose the idea. She said the land has been sitting vacant for years without interest, and now they have an opportunity to bring some "star power" to the area.

Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705. Follow him at twitter.com/rosenberg17.