Cobb Superior Court Senior Judge Michael Stoddard decided Tuesday morning to postpone the Development Authority of Cobb County’s bond validation, which would allow property tax waivers for a $103 million mixed-use project backed by mega-developer John Williams.
Cobb Board of Education Chairman Randy Scamihorn said he believes the delay until Dec. 30 is to give the court time to digest the arguments on both sides of the issue and “get ducks in a row.” School system lawyers filed a written challenge to the bond deal just before the 5 p.m. deadline on Monday.
The deal, funded by bonds that would be issued through the appointed Development Authority board, would offer a 10-year tax abatement on rent-able condos and townhomes along with a 10-story office tower to be built near the future site of the Atlanta Braves baseball stadium in the Cumberland area.
The 7-acre site is at the corner of Cobb Parkway and Cumberland Boulevard.
The school system is expected to be made a party to the case and will appear in court alongside the Development Authority at 10 a.m. on Dec. 30 to lay out its argument, said Tom Davis, the staff attorney for Cobb’s senior judges.
“There’s no way that they could have been ready to go forward,” Davis said of Tuesday’s hearing.
Attorneys for the school system argued in an official motion that its right of taxation and right to appeal would be taken away if it were not named as a party.
The motion also argued the Development Authority neglected to consider the “public good” because it opted to forge ahead with the tax breaks, even though the project didn’t meet the county’s requirements of creating 25 jobs and contributing $500,000 to the tax digest.
School officials have argued the tax abatement could be detrimental to school funding.
The two parcels that make up the 7 acres of undeveloped land are currently valued at about $6.1 million for tax purposes, according to the Cobb County Tax Commissioner’s website. That raw land generated $46,433 for the Cobb School District in 2013 and $26,803 for the county.
If developed into a $100 million project, the site would pump more than 15 times that amount annually into county coffers, with $436,400 generated for the county and another $756,000 for Cobb schools, according to estimates provided by the county finance office.
But developers won’t be paying those taxes, if approved, and that could add up to more than $8 million in lost revenue for the schools and county government over the term of the 10-year abatement.