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Marietta City Council OKs deal for Atlanta United FC soccer complex

But is it a good investment for citizens?

Less than a week after some filthy soil threw a wrench in DeKalb County's plan to house Atlanta United FC's new multi-million dollar training complex, Marietta has emerged as the facility's potential new home. 
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?The Marietta City Council on Wednesday approved in a 6-1 vote the memorandum of understanding detailing provisions of a lease deal with Atlanta's new pro soccer club. The MOU outlines a development plan aimed at revitalizing Marietta's Franklin Road corridor, where the city has been knocking down apartments and displacing people.
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? AUFC, if it signs onto a lease with the city next month, would enjoy an abatement from all city, school, and county tax obligations for the deal's first year. After that, the tax credit would depreciate by 10 percent each year. The football club's rent would cost a mere dollar-a-year for for the first ten years of the 20-year lease. The second ten years would cost $320,000 each. 
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? In exchange for these and other benefits, AUFC needs to invest at least $40 million to develop a 32-acre plot on Franklin Road with the construction of exercise facilities, office space, and six practice fields that would be shared with city youth. Project blueprints show the 3,500-seat stadium proposed for DeKalb's 41-acre site has been nixed from the game plan.
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?The preliminary contract's approval was not met without community pushback. Marietta resident Larry Wills said he doesn't think AUFC's development would benefit the local economy enough to pay back the $68 million redevelopment bond borrowed by the city in 2013 to curb crime near Franklin Road.
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"You're deferring any revenue if it ever comes, which will be at least 10 to 12 years," he says. "You passed the largest bond referendum in the city of Marietta's history. You're asking the taxpayers to make an investment. They should see some reasonable return. You're all promising pie-in-the-sky stuff."
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? Another resident inquired about economic impact studies conducted to assess the project's job-growth potential. There were none. And government ethics watchdog William Perry says Marietta hasn't engaged its community enough to see if a major sports complex is the right move for the region.
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?"This is another sports facility in metro Atlanta that's being forced on the people," he said. "All the growth talked about is based on speculation and the taxpayers deserve more, a more definitive answer to 'how is this going to benefit us?'"
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?Marietta's Police Chief Dan Flynn says he thinks the plans, if realized, will benefit public safety along Franklin Road, where he says crime rates have declined in the past few years. 
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?"The proposal kinda popped up overnight," he admits. "But we think it's going to be welcomed because it's very industrial and it provides greenspace and jobs and other good industry."
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? Marietta City Councilman Philip Goldstein says before any lease deal can be finalized, the MOU will need a much closer look as the rushed nature of this week's developments has left some citizens in the dark. But, as far as neglecting to issue an economic impact study, Goldstein says the city doesn't need to.
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? "I spent almost 40 years of my life in commercial real estate," he says. "I don't have to do a study to determine if a lease is good or bad... You don't need some expert to go out and figure that out." He's confident additional development will follow the soccer club's big moves. 
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? But the city needs to finalize lease terms quick or cut its losses. AUFC wants to break ground on the complex this January so the team can be prepped for its 2017 kick-off.
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