The decision now heads to the Cobb Board of Commissioners for final action on July 15.
Planning Commission Chairman Mike Terry said it was clear the Braves are committed to building a quality 74-acre development.
With $300 million from the county, the Braves are building a $672 million new stadium adjacent to a private $400 million mixed-use development, both scheduled to open in 2017.
“They have more to lose than anyone in this and all of us, including the staff members, have a great desire to see this be successful moving forward,” Terry said. “So based on all of this and the wonderful and very strong recommendations that we got from our staff, I’m prepared to make a motion, and my motion would be for approval.”
Alston & Bird attorney Clay Massey objected to the zoning request on behalf of Genuine Parts Company, which is headquartered across the street from the development.
“Genuine Parts Company employs many, many, many people in Cobb County,” Massey said. “The proposal is to put an off-site parking garage directly across Circle 75 Parkway from Genuine Parts Company.”
Massey said while the company is a corporate sponsor of the Braves and is excited about the franchise moving to Cobb, the zoning request is wrong.
“It’s going to create a colossal traffic and congestion jam in front of Genuine Parts Company’s corporate headquarters,” Massey said.
A source familiar with the negotiations tells the MDJ that Genuine Parts has engaged in contract negotiations for the Braves to purchase “or otherwise encumber” its property and has opted to bring those real estate negotiations into the rezoning process.
The MDJ asked Braves zoning attorney James Balli for his thoughts.
“While we respect anyone’s right to speak, these are typically contract negotiations that should not be injected into the zoning process,” Balli said.
Mike Plant, the Braves executive vice president of business operations, said his franchise has had active discussions with Genuine Parts.
“We’re incredibly pleased that they’re one of our partners. They are a long-term partner of ours. We understand this process. They have an office complex there that’s been there for a long period of time. I think the thing that is a fact of interest, though, is the parking there, we haven’t defined exactly what it’s going to be.”
Existing zoning allows for a four-story parking deck on the site, Plant said.
“Whoever bought the property could build a four-story deck, so making sure you got all the facts and educating yourself with those. We’ll continue to have dialogue and discussion with them,” Plant said. “They are a valued partner of ours. This is all part of the process.”
Dahlonega attorney George Butler is representing Fairly Breezy LLC, which owns an adjacent lot off Cobb Parkway.
Butler objected to the rezoning as well and claimed the Braves offered to buy his client’s property for less than what he believes it is worth.
Ellen Smith, an attorney with Holt Ney Zatcoff & Wasserman, said she represents the Waterford Place Condominium Association, a 120-unit development between Cobb Parkway and Circle 75.
Smith said the association’s 13.5-acre property was roughly the size of the property the Braves intend to use for parking.
“Since the announcement of the relocation of the Atlanta Braves to Cobb County, the residents of Waterford Place have sought to be informed and have a voice in connection with the project because without question the nature of their homes are going to be impacted,” Smith said. “The Atlanta Braves have politely and firmly brushed aside requests to meet and to discuss concerns ranging from safety to traffic, parking and attraction noise.”
Balli said Smith’s comment the Braves refused to meet with the condominium association was inaccurate.
“They required an in-depth meeting in February of this year before there was any concrete information to discuss,” Balli said. Balli said the association never called him requesting a meeting before Tuesday’s hearing.
“But I fully expect every concern voiced by them at the hearing to be addressed by the final development plan,” he said.
Jill Flamm, an officer with the East Cobb Civic Association, said her group was concerned a precedent would be set with the development’s master covenants overriding county code.
Terry included in his motion, however, the caveat that whenever there is a difference of standards between the Braves’ master covenants and the county’s development standards, the more restrictive of the two prevails.
“I think it’s a start,” Flamm said after the meeting. “I think we’ll see what happens before the Board of Commissioners.”
Plant called the vote another step forward.
“We’ve said from Day 1 this was a world-class ball park,” Plant said. “It’s going to be a world-class mixed-use development, and the two of those are going to coexist together. And they’re going to be life-changing, legacy, generational changes for Cobb County, and this was a big day for us.”
The property is now zoned general commercial, office high rise and office and institutional.
The Braves are requesting the property be rezoned regional retail commercial. The zoning classification is reserved for mixed-use developments exceeding 500,000 square feet in size and contain a combination of commercial uses, including office, retail and residential space.
The privately-owned development calls for:
• 630,000 square feet of Class A office space;
• 500,000 square feet of “upscale” retail space;
• 450 hotel rooms;
• 600 “luxury” multi-family residential units; and
• 100,000 square feet for a multi-use entertainment facility.