The school board’s rare legal challenge of tax breaks Cobb County offered developers appears to have killed a deal to build a $103 million mixed-use project just a mile from the Atlanta Braves stadium site.
The Riverwalk development, which would have included apartments, townhomes and the area’s first office tower in 13 years, was offered the controversial property tax abatement that would have cost the Cobb County School District about $4.3 million over the next decade.
The development was backed by real estate mogul John Williams, founder of Post Properties and one of the most influential developers in the state, with deep connections on the development authority, the chamber of commerce and the county commission. Riverwalk was the first time in Cobb’s history that tax breaks were offered to help a speculative office/residential venture.
The school system, mired in an $80 million budget crisis that has caused teacher layoffs and furloughs in recent years, filed a legal objection to the tax breaks in December and entered into negotiations with the development authority over the past week.
Those negotiations made no progress even after a private closed-door meeting Wednesday that involved Attorney General Sam Olens, former Gov. Roy Barnes, State Sen. Lindsey Tippins and Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee, along with members of the school board and development authority.
Also Wednesday, a school board attorney delivered a written settlement offer to the development authority. The school board wanted future abatement deals either to be approved by the board, or, on deals it does not approve, for the schools to receive payments from the developer in an amount equal to the tax being abated.
The developers withdrew their request for the tax breaks — which Williams has said were absolutely necessary for the project to proceed — Thursday morning.