Falcons stadium: Residents question $15 million city had earmarked before deal reached among city, state, team

By David Pendered

The $15 million offered by Atlanta to fix up neighborhoods around the planned Falcons stadium is the subject of an emerging controversy.

The money had already been earmarked for the neighborhoods before the stadium deal was announced in March, according to an Invest Atlanta official. A planning firm had already been hired to recommend how the money be spent.

In that case, the sum shouldn’t be counted toward efforts to help mitigate stadium-related issues such as traffic and storm water runoff, according to neighborhood leaders who serve on the committee that’s guiding the stadium-related community benefits deal.

The Center for Civil & Human Rights received funding from Atlanta's Westside TAD. Credit:  Center for Civil & Human Right

The Center for Civil & Human Rights received funding from Atlanta’s Westside TAD. Credit: Center for Civil & Human Right

“This money had already been allocated for us and was renamed for us,” said Yvonne Jones, who chairs NPU-L and serves on the committee. “We should just go ask for another $15 million.”

“The $15 million in TAD [funds] should not have been mixed in with community benefits,” said Jerry Ladipo, a Vine City businessman who serves on the committee.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s representative on the committee said the administration will have a response. Deputy Chief of Staff Katrina Taylor Park did not elaborate, nor say when the response would be made available.

“The overlapping of the $15 million as relates to the TAD versus community benefits, we will have a one-pager that outlines that,” Parks said. “The mayor has asked for proposals and to follow the application process. There may be opportunities for funding outside the funding we’re discussing.”

The conversation occurred during the Wednesday meeting of the Community Benefits Plan Committee. The 16-member panel is to devise recommendations for spending $15 million in city funds, and recommendations that are to “inform” the spending of $15 million offered by the Blank Foundation, established by Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

The committee also agreed that it would not be bound by the Oct. 2 target date for finalizing its recommendations. A new date was not determined.

The Westside TAD has achieved many of its original objectives, according to a 2012 performance audit by Atlanta's city auditor. Click on the image for a larger version. Credit: City Auditor's Office

The Westside TAD has achieved many of its original objectives, according to a 2012 performance audit by Atlanta’s city auditor. Click on the image for a larger version. Credit: City Auditor’s Office

The $15 million in city funds is to come from a pot the city created in 1992 to pay for improvements in an area west of Atlanta’s central business district. The pot has a balance of more than $95 million, according to a 2012 city performance audit of Atlanta’s 10 TADs.

The Westside Tax Allocation District gets its money from property taxes collected on developments built after the TAD was created in 1992. Its original purpose was to redevelop the area around Centennial Olympic Park prior to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

In 1998, the boundaries of the Westside TAD were expanded to provide financial assistance to address blight in adjoining areas – specifically Vine City and English Avenue, according to Invest Atlanta.

The Westside TAD has become phenomenally successful, according to figures in the audit.

As of 2011, the fund balance of the Westside TAD was $95.12 million, according to the audit. That’s more than twice the amount remaining in the TAD that has the second highest balance – the Eastside TAD – which covers the east side of Atlanta’s central business district. The balance in the Eastside TAD is $46.54 million, according to the audit.

Another indicator of the latent wealth in the Westside TAD coffer is its balance in comparison to the fund balance in Atlanta’s eight other TADs. The total balance in those eight TADs is $83.8 million, according to the audit.

Spending any portion of the balance of the Westside TAD will require a vote by the Atlanta City Council, according to the audit.

That’s because the Westside TAD has already funded the public improvements that were identified in the redevelopment plan created under state law to establish the Westside TAD. In a segment of the audit that addressed the Westside and Eastside TADS, the audit states:

  • “It’s not clear what additional bonds for the Eastside and Westside districts would be intended to fund, because the original bond issuances were intended to fund the public portions of all projects identified in the redevelopment plans. Issuing additional bonds will require City Council approval.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

7 replies
  1. Atlgal says:

    Don’t make inaccurate statements this – you are simply wrong on this point. It is NOT any kind of ‘slush fund’ – it is a pool of funds with very a specific, legislatively mandated, purpose with highly monitored policies for its utilization that requires TWO votes, by City Council and IA Board to disburse.Report

  2. Burroughston Broch says:

    Atlgal I am not wrong. The TADs keep changing focus according to the political winds, and the idea that 2 votes (one by Coucil and another by the IA Board) provides any protection from political manipulation is ludicrous. One look at the IA Board and you see a major overlap with City Council, the Mayor’s office, and political appointees by the City Council. The IA Board is NOT independent of the City Council.Report

  3. Burroughston Broch says:

    Atlgal You should read an article in today’s AJC, “Stadium impact talks hit a snag.” The folks in the English Avenue, Vine City, and Castleberry Hill neighborhoods smell a rat and said so. Invest Atlanta plans on awarding grants based on community input plus a study commissioned from a Jacksonville planning firm last fall, months before any agreement between Invest Atlanta and the Blank Foundation. The report doesn’t even cover Castleberry Hill, although half of it is in the affected area.
    As I said before – a political slush fund.Report

  4. Atlgal says:

    Wrong, again, Mr Brooch, the agreement does include Castleberry Hill community. Just because you say it, does not make it so. Offering misinformation isn’t going to help advance this process. This is important work being done by committed and knowledgeable people in the community and with the City. I have great confidence in these neighborhoods and their ability to develop a workable plan in collaboration with the City.Report

  5. Burroughston Broch says:

    Atlgal Read my last post before you start typing and accusing others of offering misinformation.
    I said the AJC reported the study report covers only English Avenue and Vine City, but not Castleberry Hill.
    According to the AJC, the three neighborhoods don’t share your great confidence. For good reason.Report


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