Cobb to suspend parking ban on private property near Braves stadium

Following widespread backlash, Cobb County will likely suspend a law banning private parking lots around SunTrust Park, the future home of the Atlanta Braves.

The law, which was passed earlier this year with little fanfare, prompted angry reactions after local property owners complained they would be prevented from taking advantage of their proximity to the stadium. As currently written, the ordinance bans private parking lots within a half-mile of the stadium. Outside that half-mile radius, lot owners can apply for a license to charge for parking.

Critics have accused the county of giving preferential treatment to the Braves. They also say charging violators with a misdemeanor and subjecting them to fines and possible jail time is excessive. County officials have defended the parking ban as necessary for pedestrian and motorist safety, pointing out that property owners can appeal the ban before the county.

On Tuesday, Commissioner Bob Ott said the ordinance in question should be suspended for up to six months while the county revises it and holds public hearings. The proposal to vote on a six-month moratorium at the board's July 26 meeting elicited minimal comment from fellow commissioners.

After the meeting, Ott said “everyone agrees” the ordinance needs tweaking before first pitch in April 2017, but that staff should be given time to solicit feedback from all concerned parties.

“Nobody’s really parking until next year,” Ott said. “I’m a strong proponent of property owner rights, so we need to make sure we’re protecting those, but I think there was also some confusion for the way the code was written.”

Community Development Director Dana Johnson said he expected his staff will draft a revised ordinance for public comment well before the six-month moratorium runs out in January.

“We anticipate that this will be able to occur within this calendar year,” Johnson said, adding that he has not yet received specific instructions about how the ordinance should be changed.

The board did not address a separate ordinance that effectively exempts the Braves from an anti-peddling law that has been on the books for years. That ordinance would allow vendors to operate within The Battery, the private mixed-used development owned by the Braves next to the stadium. Some have likened it to the parking ordinance, saying it gives unfair advantage to the Braves.

Ott rejected the comparison.

“What the [new] vendors’ code did was it recognized that around the stadium and The Battery is kind of a unique situation,” Ott said. “The peddlers code would have prevented them from setting up shop on their property.”

Separately, the board voted to condemn additional property to facilitate access to the Cobb Galleria Centre for the construction of the multi-use bridge over Interstate 285. The county has started building the bridge despite a legal challenge from Galleria Common Area Associates, representing tenants and property owners. The hearing for that challenge is scheduled for August 25 in Superior Court Judge Reuben Green's courtroom.