Plan for benefits to Falcons stadium communities moves ahead

After months of raucous negotiations between residents and city officials, a plan for spending millions pledged to communities impacted by the future Atlanta Falcons stadium has taken another step forward.

The community benefits package was green-lighted by a 9 to 3 vote Monday in a special-called meeting and now heads to the Atlanta City Council for consideration.

Last week, residents and many on the committee composed of city officials and representatives from English Avenue, Vine City and Castleberry Hill erupted in anger after learning the plan — not yet approved at the time — had already been introduced as legislation to the council.

The community benefits package — which suggests ways to spend $30 million meant to bolster the poverty-stricken areas near the stadium — must be affirmed by the council and Mayor Kasim Reed before the city can issue $200 million in bonds backed by hotel-motel taxes for stadium construction.

Any legislation not passed by the council’s Dec. 2 meeting, the last in its four-year term, effectively dies. The Falcons’ construction schedule calls for a spring groundbreaking. To that end, Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, took another step last week towards issuing the bonds.

Tensions have run high from the beginning over how much say residents of the communities near the $1.2 billion stadium will have on spending community benefits funds. The money is geared toward developing project-specific goals to address environmental impact, traffic congestion, public safety concerns and potential gentrification.

The communities will receive $15 million from the Westside tax allocation district and $15 million from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. Organizations must apply to receive any funds to both Invest Atlanta, which oversees TAD dollars, and the Blank Foundation.

Though the legislation has already been submitted to the city council, the final plan approved Monday by the benefits committee will also be provided to the council’s community development/human resources committee Tuesday for consideration. If approved by that body, the legislation heads to the full council next week.