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Vine City residents file motion to block public funding for Falcons stadium

Public hearing granted on Feb. 17

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  • Joeff Davis/CL File
  • Bishop John Lewis III speaks to a reporter last week during a protest against the closure of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

A group of Vine City residents have filed a motion to challenge the use of at least $200 million in public funding for the proposed Atlanta Falcons stadium.

John Woodham, the Buckhead lawyer who fought the Atlanta Beltline's main funding source all the way to the Supreme Court of Georgia, has filed the legal challenge on behalf of Vine City residents Rev. William L. Cottrell, Sr.; Mamie Lee "Mother" Moore; Tracy Bates; and John Lewis III - collectively listed as the "Intervenors" - to block the sale of bonds that would help pay for a portion of the Downtown athletic facility's estimated $1.2 billion construction costs.

Last week, Invest Atlanta, the city's economic development arm, filed a petition to validate the revenue bonds for the proposed Falcons stadium in a "principal amount not to exceed $278,346,000" to help fund the project. Saporta Report's David Pendered has a good breakdown of the proposed bond sale.

In the motion filed yesterday, the residents object to the extension of the city's hotel and motel tax as a funding mechanism for the new stadium for several different reasons. They challenge the constitutionality of the state law that purportedly gives City Hall the power to sign off on the measure's extension. It also claims that the Atlanta City Council and Mayor Kasim Reed last March "improperly and illegally adopted" a resolution to extend the hotel and motel tax. City officials, they write in the lawsuit, failed to receive tax certification from the Georgia World Congress Center Authority before it passed the measure.

Among numerous other legal objections - we've embedded the full motion after the jump - the 71-page motion questions the legality of the city's recent decision to abandon and transfer property to the GWCCA needed for the new stadium. The residents claim that doing so won't provide "substantial benefit" to Atlanta residents. Citing the recent partial demolition of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive's viaduct portion, the suit argues that the GWCCA has now moved forward without fully complying with the Georgia Environmental Policy Act.

Residents say they feel as if they've exhausted most of their other options regarding the proposed stadium. John Lewis III, one of the "Intervenors," says many residents of the surrounding communities approached last year's community benefits process with guarded optimism. After failing to reach a legally-binding agreement, Lewis questions whether Councilmembers intended to fulfill to the promises they made during the stadium negotiations process.

"After the final community benefits meeting, we realized that something had to be done," Lewis III tells CL. "After Council members rushed to make sure that by the end of the year, and all of this was done, we knew at that point that action had to be taken."

On Feb. 17, a public hearing regarding the stadium bonds will take place in Superior Court of Fulton County at 8:30 a.m. The legal proceedings could potentially delay the timeline for the stadium construction.

Reed spokesman Carlos Campos says the city and Invest Atlanta have received a copy of the motion and are "currently reviewing the motion" to prepare for the bond validation proceedings. GWCCA spokeswoman Jennifer LeMaster, Moore, Woodham declined to comment about the lawsuit.

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