The Atlanta Braves on Tuesday received the final approval necessary to begin building bars, restaurants, hotel rooms and condos outside of a planned baseball stadium near Cumberland Mall in Cobb County.
County commissioners unanimously approved the team's rezoning request for the mixed-use development, which team officials say will cost $400 million and will include office space and an entertainment venue. The Braves anticipate that most of the development will open along with the stadium in April 2017.
Mike Plant, the Braves' executive vice president of business operations, said a development team for the mixed-use project will be finalized in "a matter of days." He said that the team will now begin negotiating with potential tenants.
"We have a long list of interested parties, on the hotel side, office, retail, restaurants. We have meetings later this week with a global entertainment player," Plant said.
"Now with final approval, we're in a position to start signing leases," he said.
Commissioners gave the development a green light over the objection of two nearby property owners.
George Butler, an attorney representing owners of a nearby office tower, said the county "abdicated" its responsibility by giving the Braves too many exceptions to the county's zoning ordinance --- for signs, parking, building heights and setbacks.
"This is a nonverifiable, take-it-on-faith, pig in a poke, rezoning application," Butler said.
Butler said his company is particularly concerned that there will not be enough parking for the ballpark and mixed-use development.
Braves' attorney James Balli told the commission that all the parking necessary for the mixed-use development will be on the site.
Parking for the baseball stadium, he said, is still being developed.
"They're saying no, trust us. We'll come up with our own parking study. We'll tell you want the number is, and you're bound by it. Because we're the Braves," Butler told the commission.
"And that's an unconstitutional delegation of a core and essential police power to a private, unelected, self-interested entity.
"It won't pass muster."
Opponents of the rezoning now have 30 days to file an appeal in Cobb Superior Court. Butler said he'll be talking with his clients about whether to do that.
When asked how parking around the stadium will work, Plant acknowledged that it's a work in progress.
"We're going to figure it out," Plant said. "And I would just ask people to understand we're still 33 months away from playing our first game."
Part of the parking solution involves a 3,000-space garage planned along Circle 75 Parkway, and that's what has Clay Massey worried.
Massey, an attorney representing Genuine Parts Co., said his client has had its headquarters across from the planned parking garage for 35 years.
The garage will create "tremendous traffic and congestion problems for our employees," Massey said in asking the commission to reject only that portion of the rezoning application.
Massey also said that the plan for the garage is in violation of the county's zoning law because it is on a different tract of land from the mixed-use development, and it is located more than 400 feet from it.
"It's going to be an unmanageable situation," Massey said, referring to employees of Genuine Parts trying to leave work on game nights.
"There are laws in Cobb County, zoning laws, that are there to protect a property owner like Genuine Parts. What they're asking for is a disregard of those laws."
The AJC will continue to follow the Atlanta Braves' new stadium in Cobb County. Follow along at MyAJC.com/bravesmove to see coverage about the deal, questions and issues about the costs, maps, renderings and plans for Cobb County, and images of the ballpark designed by the company picked to build the new stadium.