It’s judgment day in Cobb County.
The five Cobb County commissioners Tuesday will meet to consider and vote on a deal to build a new $672 million stadium for the Atlanta Braves that will be paid for, at least in part, by public dollars. Cobb County taxpayers would be on the hook to pay $300 million and a resolution to approve a 30-year memorandum of understanding with the team is on the commission’s agenda for Tuesday evening.
The agreement calls for a mix of reallocating existing property tax revenue and implementing new taxes on business and tourism in the area. Groups in support of the project have said that the project will not raise taxes on property or individuals in Cobb County.
While the plan has faced opposition from Tea Party activists, politicians and Cobb citizens, it has recently gained steam among proponents, particularly in the business community.
The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports that the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, Cumberland CID and Coalition of Cobb County Business Associations, which says it collectively represent more than 7,500 businesses and individuals as well as more than 50,000 employees in Cobb County, released a statement outlining why the vote on the new stadium tomorrow is important to them:
“Delaying puts the construction timeline and opening day schedule in jeopardy. The stadium and entertainment district will require a year to finance, design, and engineer, and then another two years to build. This is a tight timeframe.
Polls taken last week show 98 percent of Cobb residents know about the project, and unbiased polls show that 61 percent are supportive.
The financial terms of the deal have been available for 11 days for review on the Cobb County website, and there are three more public hearings on the issue where citizens can voice their opinions.”
Members of the Cobb County Commission say they held town hall meetings around the county Monday evening.
But that budding support from businesses is just what many in opposition to the stadium say makes them nervous. Conservative activists say they are wary of a number of property deals completed near the location of the proposed new Braves stadium site.
Jack Staver, leader of the Georgia 9/12 Project and former chairman of the Transportation Leadership Coalition, which successfully opposed TSPLOST transportation initiative in 2012, told the Atlanta Daily World earlier this month that his group is gathering information about land deals near the proposed mixed-use site in anticipation of mounting political opposition to the project.
“The problem with this thing is that it stinks,” said Staver of the land sales. “They say nobody knew [about the stadium deal]. That’s not true. All sorts of things have been going on for months prior to the announcement.”
Tea party leader Debbie Dooley told the Atlanta Business Chronicle that she is particularly suspicious of the sale of three large pieces of property adjacent to the new stadium site, near Circle 75, that traded hands nine days before the stadium announcement was made on Nov. 11.
“They are rushing a deal,” said Dooley. “They are rushing a vote two days before a holiday without one public hearing. What are they hiding.”
Dozens of citizens packed a public meeting about the stadium on Monday with mixed feelings about the project. Many supporting the move arrived in Braves gear carrying foam tomahawks.
“I think it’s great for Cobb County and great for this part of the region,” said Max Bacon, who attended the meeting.
The Cobb Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority, the entity that will issue the bonds and control the stadium, voted to accept the agreement on Monday.
A group called Cobb Citizens for Governmental Transparency called on the commission to postpone its vote for 60 days to give residents a chance to learn more. The coalition includes groups such as the the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots and the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club’s Cobb group.
In Atlanta, the Braves move from downtown has been met with animosity from fans and ambivalence from many of the city’s politicians.
“We wanted the Braves to stay in Atlanta, but (there was a) business problem that we had to solve,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said Tuesday. “That choice was encumbering between $150 million and $250 million in debt and not having money to do anything else.”
The City Council passed a resolution 11-2 asking Reed to continue talks with the team, but so far little action has happened at City Hall ahead of Tuesday’s highly anticipated meeting in Cobb County.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who has represented most of Atlanta in Congress since 1987, said that he’s hopeful the team will stay inside the city limits. When asked for this thoughts upon hearing about the team’s possible move, Lewis called it, “a blow to the city,”
“The Atlanta Braves,” he said. “The Atlanta Braves should be in Atlanta.”