New Lawsuit Challenges Zoning For Braves Stadium

August 16, 2014 8:45 am

by Charlie · 29 comments

Adjacent property owners to land where the new Braves Stadium is to be built have filed suit against the Cobb Board of Commissioners, asking for the zoning change to be invalidated.  Ricky Leroux of the Marietta Daily Journal reports:

The suit alleges the rezoning application for the property was “purely speculative” and “had none of the normal specificity required by the Zoning Ordinance,” and as a result, the general public was denied its due process rights because it did not have complete information.

Doug Haynie, attorney for the city of Marietta, Daniel White, Haynie’s partner at Marietta-based Haynie, Litchfield, Crane & White, and George Butler II, a real estate lawyer based in Dahlonega, brought the suit on behalf of Fairly Breezy LLC.

The company owns a 1.9-acre property at 2550 Heritage Court containing a multi-story, 25,000-square-foot building, a property which is adjacent to the 74.77-acre parcel the Braves plan to use for a new $672 million stadium and a $400 million mixed-use development.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff wants the zoning decision allowing the stadium and development to be invalidated; it also wants all court costs to be paid by the defendants.

I’ve written off most of the lawsuits attempting to stop the stadium construction as less than strategic wishful thinking, but in this case, the MDJ adds this kicker:

“The first thing that absolutely leaps off of the page is that the plaintiff is represented by Doug Haynie and Dan White,” Cauthorn said. “Doug Haynie has been the city attorney for the city of Marietta for 30 years, and … Daniel White, Judge White’s son, is his partner. And Dan White and Doug are serious-minded people.

“I’ve never known either one of them to undertake anything, as far as filing any kind of legal proceeding, where they didn’t believe that there was a meritorious claim or a meritorious defense,” he added.

Might need to watch this one, but it looks like some of the neighboring property owners are potentially in a position for….consideration.

South Fulton Guy August 16, 2014 at 9:33 am

Maybe the Braves should just stay in Atlanta since there is so much opposition in Cobb. LOL

saltycracker August 16, 2014 at 10:31 am

The plaintiffs may be correct via due process but in most counties, the BOC has the last word.
Many of us learning that the hard way (and serving on zoning committees) know who we elect is very important.

saltycracker August 16, 2014 at 10:38 am

The adjacent property owners can only hope for some favorable compromises from the developers.

Ralph August 16, 2014 at 12:52 pm

“Legal” extortion by both the adjacent property owners and attorneys Haynie/White. All looking to cash in on a payday to drop the suit meant to delay/ run up costs. I hope there is no “consideration”, “compromises” or settlement – just blow them out of the water as an example to others.

WeymanCWannamakerJr August 16, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Most office park tenants are going to see the extra traffic around their complex as detrimental to their businesses and if the property owners can prove that this will diminish the value of their property they are due consideration. If the commissioners approved zoning to allow a hog farm adjacent to your property would you want to just be blown out of the water as an example to others?

South Fulton Guy August 16, 2014 at 2:30 pm

REALLY?? Under what county or state statue are neighbors of a development entitled to compensation for additional traffic due to a neighbor legally developing their property?

Property holders have rights to develop and being a neighbor does not preempt the right of someone to develop their property that has the zoning blessing of the county commission.

The likelihood of them proving that it will diminish the value of their property in this frivolous lawsuit are zero and none.

JayJacket August 16, 2014 at 3:55 pm

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuisance

Hopefully this link helps illuminate the issue.

JayJacket August 16, 2014 at 4:05 pm

To elaborate, a developer does not have an absolute right to develop his land if it would harm neighboring property. It’s clear to me at least that the stadium will bring added traffic and noise, especially on game days, likely reducing the value of neighboring property. However, calculating damages may be difficult because the nuisance loss is probably offset to some extent by increased demand (Ie increased property values) for property right near the new stadium.

South Fulton Guy August 16, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Impact is determined and assessed in most jurisdictions before governmental approval. During the process neighboring properties are typically given the opportunity to testify about adverse impact and oppose approval of the zoning. JayJacket do you happen to know if the plaintiffs testified and made their opposition known in advance of the zoning and subsequent lawsuit?

South Fulton Guy August 16, 2014 at 12:47 pm

spot on…

Charlie August 16, 2014 at 2:42 pm

I’m going to avoid the arguments of whether the case has merit and go to the diminished value argument. I’ve been looking to lease office space in the immediate area of the stadium. The buildings in the circle 75 office park (literally across the street from the site) raised their asking rates $2-3/sf just after the stadium was announced. Another building on Herrodian Way (one street over) raised theirs $1/sf. So as to damages…going to be hard to prove they are economic.

saltycracker August 16, 2014 at 8:30 pm

The argument will be use. A home value may diminish with the traffic nuisance and zoning may be denied for commercial use. You’d think if such a huge commercial area abuts single family residential that some kind of agreed buffer area is in the plan or needs to be in a settlement.

heroV August 18, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Well, good for them if they can get an extra $2-3/sf. We are also looking for space in the immediate area, and there is no way in heck we would want to be across the street from the stadium.

Charlie August 18, 2014 at 5:28 pm

But how do you feel about possibly being across the street from me?

Michael Silver August 18, 2014 at 5:47 pm

There goes the neighborhood!

The zoning challenge isn’t going anywhere. That area is already zoned for the stadium use and regional activity center. If Cobb County Crackers develop the property like they claim, its going to be a very desirable location to be at.

heroV August 20, 2014 at 9:06 am

We are even nervous about considering Galleria with the uncertainty over the Braves parking situation. We simply don’t want our employees and clients to have to rearrange their lives and schedules too much to deal with traffic issues caused by Braves games. We are also concerned about traffic issues that might be caused by construction of the stadium for the next few years, not just gamedays. We are not a retailer, so across the street from the stadium is not that desirable for us. We are currently across the street from the Weather Channel headquarters.

seenbetrdayz August 20, 2014 at 9:50 am

Why do you hate the Braves?/America?

You should consider yourself very fortunate to witness the construction of a magnificent stadium which will be . . . empty . . . in 10 years . . . when the Braves decide to move again. But hey, live for the moment! Enjoy it while it lasts because tomorrow is but a bond away.

/sarcasm

Ellynn August 18, 2014 at 6:39 pm

I’d visit…

Ellynn August 18, 2014 at 6:38 pm

There are some places where having a residental zone around a stadium is a good thing. My great aunt could park 7 cars in her front lawn and drive way in the 70’s at $10 a car when the Packers played a home game. She was two blocks south of the stadium.

View from Brookhaven August 16, 2014 at 5:09 pm

They’ve got the budget for it, why not take a swing?

South Fulton Guy August 16, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Of course who cares if Cobb County taxpayers have to pay to defend against a lawsuit that some believe is frivolous. That is why we need tort reform and “loser pays” laws to cover the expense of defending against these lawsuits.

Loren August 17, 2014 at 10:16 am

The zoning lawsuit isn’t the only new development regarding Cobb and the stadium this weekend:

“Lee hires off-the-books attorney for Braves deal”
http://www.myajc.com/news/news/lee-hires-off-the-books-attorney-for-braves-deal/ng4Dt/#56ecbf5d.3828699.735461

And when initially asked about his secret attorney conducting negotiations on behalf of the county, what was Tim Lee’s response? He flat-out lied about it.

Loren August 17, 2014 at 11:11 am

Also, Cobb took EIGHT MONTHS to fully reply to the AJC’s open records request from last November, which is why it took this long for this story to break:

http://www.myajc.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/draft-docs-braves-initially-asked-cobb-for-442-mil/ng4Gx/?ecmp=ajc_social_twitter_2014_sfp#8e84d684.3828699.735462

“In response to the AJC’s November request, filed under Georgia’s Open Records Act, the county initially said there were no such records; then said they were exempted as “attorney work product.” After being told by the newspaper’s lawyer that attorney work product was not a legal exemption, the county responded that the records were not technically “in existence” until the document was “disseminated” to county officials.

“The next day the MOU was released to the public, but nearly 700 pages of drafts were never turned over to the newspaper.”

Ralph August 17, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Yawn.
Business deals are not announced in advance or done in public until they are firmed up or rejected – unless somehow leaked. Good that this one was not leaked. Those opposing the move have and will continue to make it appear sinister, but it is a done deal. There are tens of millions of dollars purposely set aside to combat the expected nuissance legal actions that are cheap to start with upside rewards even if extreme longshots. Lawyers make a good living winning very low percentages, and like a poster points out above – we need to join the rest of the world with a “loser pays” to stop this legal system abuse. Of course, it won’t happen with lawyers controlling legislatures.

Loren August 18, 2014 at 12:06 pm

“Business deals are not announced in advance or done in public until they are firmed up or rejected – unless somehow leaked.”

Except this wasn’t a private business deal; it was a county commissioner secretly negotiating for the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars of TAXPAYER dollars. Hiring an off-the-books attorney who he didn’t even tell his fellow commissioners about, and then lying when asked about it by the press. Holding “rolling quorum” meetings where commissioners would stand in the hallway, to avoid open meetings laws. Publicly disclosing the deal only two weeks before holding a vote to approve it. Crafting a bond arrangement in such a way to attempt to avoid holding any sort of public referendum on a single project that costs as much as the county’s general budget for an entire year.

And then, as if to add insult to injury, taking EIGHT MONTHS to respond to a simple open records request, resulting in some of these revelations coming only AFTER the contract and bonds were approved.

Private businesses can do their dealings in secret, but governments are supposed to be open to the public, especially with economic and spending projects. We have open meetings laws and open records laws and transparency disclosures for a REASON. And one of those reasons is so that a powerful business can’t dazzle a handful of elected officials in secret, and convince them to fork over a third of a billion dollars of taxpayer money for some private company’s benefit. The Cobb stadium deal isn’t an illustration of good government; it’s an illustration of government acting as shady as possible while trying to toe the line of ethical behavior.

Dave Bearse August 17, 2014 at 2:14 pm

The alternate explanation is that Lee is an incompetent that didn’t understand that he’d engaged an attorney on county business.

And a good attorney too. One that knew enough to write his firm into $4M in bond revenue during the MOU preparation process.

Lee doesn’t know anything about the latter. More lying or incompetence.

Cobb has been shaping up to be quite the paragon of good governance of late.

Baker August 19, 2014 at 12:32 am

Everyone will get bought off…maybe even by the taxpayers…without approval by the taxpayers.

saltycracker August 19, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Being one that rails on legislators regularly I’d bet it is very rare that one is blatantly dishonest and takes cash payoffs (if that is what bought off means), Just too many better choices. In fact I’m not sure it would make their top ten list of “you just might be a legislator” or “show me your sign”.

Baker August 19, 2014 at 7:10 pm

I mean the businesses filing the suit. They’ll eventually drop it for some mitigating millions

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