Braves stadium opponents continue fighting financing plan

Digging Deep. Cobb taxpayers have hundreds of millions of dollars riding on the Braves new stadium deal. Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters have been tracking the deal since the begining to keep tabs on the stadium costs and obligations public officials are making in their name. For previous stories on how the stadium deal has evolved, visit the Braves stadium page

A Cobb Superior Court Judge’s approval of the county’s plan to issue up to $397 million in bonds for construction of the new Atlanta Braves stadium has been appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Attorney Tucker Hobgood and resident Larry Savage filed separate notices of appeal Friday. Bonds for the $622 million stadium project can not be issued until the appeal is settled. Attorneys will submit written legal arguments after the case is docketed, then oral arguments will be scheduled. The legal move is likely a last, long-shot bid to prevent Cobb from borrowing the money needed to pay for stadium construction.

Both Hobgood and Savage seized on a similar themes, including that the state constitution prohibits local governments from incurring debt without a referendum.

Hobgood said the county is avoiding a public vote through an “intergovernmental contract” with the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority, which will issue the bonds for the project but not have any role in repaying the debt, building the stadium, leasing the stadium or maintaining the facility.

Hobgood said the state Constitution allows for Intergovernmental agreements only for “joint services … or for the joint or separate use of facilities or equipment.”

“Among other things, the intergovernmental contract in this case is not intended as something for joint services by the county and authority in any meaningful way,” Hobgood said in an email to the newspaper. “It is intended for the benefit of the Braves owners, with any county benefit being tangential or contingent at best.”

Savage said: “Through the Intergovernmental Agreement, the county and authority have squashed our rights under the Constitution.”

The courts have traditionally upheld such agreements.

“We were notified by the leadership in Cobb County that an appeal has been filed regarding the county’s bond validation,” the Braves said in a statement issued through a spokeswoman. “We have full confidence that our partners in Cobb County will successfully handle this appeal.

“Site work and pre-construction has been begun and we will continue to move forward.”

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