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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Questions raised over board member's vote on new Braves stadium, potential role in 'entertainment district'

Questions have been raised about a Cobb County development executive's vote to approve millions of dollars in funding for the proposed Atlanta Braves stadium while working for a firm that's considered a top contender to build the team's adjacent $400-million entertainment district.

Mason Zimmerman, a Cumberland Community Improvement District board member, raised his hand last November in favor of $10 million in upgrades to the area's transportation infrastructure. He also cast a non-binding vote in favor of creating a special taxing district, one that Cobb County commissioners later approved, which is expected to bring in $5.1 million annually to help pay off the county's stadium debts.

So what's the problem, you ask? Zimmerman works as a senior vice president for Pope & Land Enterprises, an Atlanta-based development firm that's now a finalist to construct the estimated $400-million mixed-use project scheduled to be constructed next to the Braves new stadium.

The AJC's Dan Klepal and J. Scott Trubey report:

Zimmerman and Tad Leithead, chairman of the Cumberland Community Improvement District, strongly disagree. They say the vote came well before Zimmerman's company, Pope & Land Enterprises, knew enough about the project to consider bidding for the high-profile lead developer role.

"The vote was about the prospect of the Braves (moving) and how can we facilitate it," Zimmerman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His vote, he said, had "no connection whatsoever to what might happen in the future."

Zimmerman is a senior vice president at Pope & Land, part of a two-company development team that could make millions of dollars if picked by the Braves to handle the project. The Pope & Land team is one of two finalists, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week.

Braves execs started accepting bids for the private development one month after the Cumberland CID approved the transportation funding. The team is currently evaluating potential finalists for the upcoming development to compliment its proposed $672 million sports facility. Zimmerman has promised to recuse himself from all future votes involving Braves-related projects.

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