Cobb County Chairman-elect Mike Boyce is pledging better communication about Braves stadium traffic planning after defeating incumbent Tim Lee, who oversaw a plan blasted as a “nightmare” last month by Sandy Springs leaders.
Boyce’s message to Sandy Springs and other cross-border neighbors: “You’re going to be getting a phone call from me before we do anything.”
Boyce’s July 26 runoff victory over Lee is widely viewed as a referendum on Lee’s initially secret agreement, announced in 2013, for the Braves to move from Atlanta to Cobb’s Cumberland area at I-285 and I-75. The deal includes a new stadium, SunTrust Park, heavily funded by Cobb taxpayers without a public referendum that many residents demanded.
Lee and the Braves have run into repeated secrecy and lack-of-input controversies about the stadium plan, and Boyce won on a “transparency” platform. One big stadium concern is traffic and parking at a site already heavily congested at rush hour and lacking significant mass transit lines. The stadium is about a mile-and-a-half from the Sandy Springs border.
At a June 21 Sandy Springs City Council meeting, Cobb’s interim transportation director presented a stadium traffic plan that drew shock and outrage for essentially dumping cars off 285 onto Northside Drive and possibly other residential streets. Mayor Rusty Paul said the plan ignored five traffic management ideas the city proposed two years ago and claimed Lee had not returned his calls about traffic concerns for months.
Paul and Lee met two days later and worked out a system of regular city-county traffic meetings. But the clock is ticking, as SunTrust Park and the related Battery Atlanta commercial development are slated to open early next year. Lee will remain in office through year’s end, so much of the pre-opening planning will still happen on his watch.
Boyce said he has not seen the stadium parking plan and that Cobb government staff has not yet briefed him on traffic plans.
“But I can assure you,” Boyce said, “one of the clear things I heard in campaigning door-to-door is [residents] are ticked off that things happen in the neighborhood and they don’t know about it.”
He said he will change that lack of communication, including in neighboring cities and counties affected by the stadium.
Boyce defeated Lee in a Republican primary and still must win a vote on the November ballot, but there is no Democratic challenger.