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Campbell's quiet pen

Without mayor's signature, is Chastain lease a done deal?

Last December, after a marathon six-hour debate that went past midnight, city councilmembers finally approved a 10-year lease for Chastain Park Amphitheater. The previous contract, which allowed Chastain Ventures to host concerts by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and artists such as James Taylor, had been set to expire Dec. 31.

The new contract was slated to go into effect Jan. 1 this year. But three months into the new year, the contract is still missing one thing: Mayor Bill Campbell's signature.

A mere technicality, says City Hall. But to the neighborhood group that opposed the new contract — claiming concerts at Chastain are too loud — Campbell's neglect is ammo to potentially nullify the contract. The group is considering taking the city to court over the issue, according to Clair Muller, the district's councilwoman.

If it's found that Campbell's failure to sign the new contract means the old one expired, Chastain Ventures could be entitled to a $2 million payout and the park would be tenant-less. Still, don't expect any disruption of this year's concert schedule, which begins April 14. Any court action would likely take months.

Under the contract, the agreement is not binding on the city "until this Renewal Agreement has been executed by the Mayor and delivered to the Venture." The ordinance itself authorizes the mayor to enter into the 10-year agreement on the city's behalf with Chastain Ventures, but it does not say that the City Council's vote executes the contract.

Kendrick Smith, a 19-year veteran of the city law department, says it's not unusual for a contract to take months to be signed. If the mayor signs it in a reasonable amount of time, "no harm, no foul," he contends.

As for Chastain Ventures, spokesman Lee Dancy says his group did not know that the contract had not yet been signed, but he believes the matter isn't up for debate anymore.

"The City Council approved it, and that's on the record," Dancy says.??