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Copyright 2013 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Dan Klepal; Staff
The first legal challenge to Cobb County's funding plan for the new Atlanta Braves stadium has been filed, but it probably won't be the last.

An anonymous person under the pseudonym Jane Doe filed a motion for declaratory judgment on Friday in Cobb County Superior Court, asking that the court not validate the issuance of $368 million in revenue bonds that will be used toward building the Braves' new home.

Bond validation is a crucial, and typically routine, step in the process. That validation hearing is likely to be held just before the bonds are sold, which is expected to be next spring. The request that the court disallow the bonds would be settled first.

The Cobb-Marietta Coliseum Authority will issue revenue bonds to cover the public portion of the Braves stadium project. It will then enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Cobb County, which will provide a mix of tax revenue to repay the debt. More than half of that $17.9 million annual payment will come from property tax revenue.

The motion filed Friday claims that the county's plan is unconstitutional.

"The Georgia Constitution and revenue bond law require the principal and interest of revenue bonds be repaid only from the revenue generated directly from the project ... and not from pledged taxes," the motion says. It goes on to say that revenue bonds are issued without voter approval and are meant for public works projects.

"A National League Baseball stadium for the Braves is not within the permissible undertakings enumerated by the General Assembly," it says.

But municipal bond attorneys say the financing structure Cobb County will use has been upheld by Georgia courts time and again, dating to the 1940s.

Earl R. Taylor III, a partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge and the head of that firm's public finance division, said one of the more recent cases similar to Cobb's involved the funding structure for Underground Atlanta. That case went to the Georgia Supreme Court, which found it constitutional.

Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee, in an interview last week, said he anticipated the challenge and thinks the county is on strong legal footing.

In the motion filed Friday, the plaintiff said she wants to remain anonymous because Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid has said she received threats before her vote against the deal.

The plaintiff says she should be allowed to remain anonymous because she does not stand to gain financially if she wins, and that her anonymity will not put the county at a legal disadvantage. A judge will rule on her request for anonymity before her motion for declaratory judgment.

Follow the AJC's complete continuing coverage of the Braves move at and learn more about Cobb's hopes for an economic jolt from the new stadium.

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December 12, 2013


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