As I mentioned in my previous post, the AJC claims to have viewed records that show that Gwinnett County Commissioner Kevin Kenerly did not purchase a tract of land near the new Gwinnet Braves stadium in October 2007. Even if this is the case, I think the AJC is missing the big story and not properly acknowledging the readers who discovered it.
AJC reporters Michael Pearson and Patrick Fox have run down the claims posted to this blog that Gwinnett County Commissioner Kevin Kenerly purchased land near the stadium three months before the deal was revealed to the public. They have found that the claims are incorrect.
Posts at this blog and at baseball economic J.C. Bradbury’s blog claim that Kenerly purchased the land in October 2007 – after county officials began secretly scouting for land for a new stadium but three months before the decision became public.
First, at least get the name of my blog right. Second, how about giving a little credit for tracking down the fact that a sitting commissioner holds a financial stake in the property? I didn’t do this, a few AJC readers did, I just put it in an easy-to-read format. I commend them for their investigative prowess.
The available records clearly indicate that the land was purchased on 10/18/2007 and that Kenerly’s company owns the land. AJC readers and I reported exactly what the Gwinnett County Tax Assessor indicated. While we may be technically incorrect, the confusion over the sale is understandable considering that it was based on faulty information provided by Gwinnett County. I think we deserve a little credit for noticing that Kenerly owns this land and may have purchased it under suspicious circumstances rather than just being told one aspect is incorrect.
But more importantly, does this fact kill the relevance of the story that Kenerly owns the land? The AJC seems to think so, for two reasons. First, Kenerly influence didn’t appear to be strong enough to land the stadium adjacent to his land.
Incidentally, the land is closer to another stadium site considered – and ultimately rejected – by Gwinnett County. That site is a 65-acre parcel at Buford Drive and I-85 owned by the Orkin family.
Kenerly’s land is adjacent to that property.
So what? The fact that he didn’t get the best possible deal doesn’t prevent him from benefiting from this deal. He clearly will benefit from game traffic or improvements to roads that will raise his property value. In fact, I’m not sure if there is much additional benefit to being directly next to the stadium. When the stadium went over budget, Kenerly voted for allocating $19 million of the county’s budget in a way that would use tax dollars to his personal benefit. It is a clear conflict of interest that he should have made public.
Second, Kenerly says he’s trying to sell his land.
Kenerly, who works as a real estate investor, told the Atlanta Journal-Constititution Thursday that he’s not interested in buying any land along the Ga. 20 corridor, including any near the stadium.
“With the way the economy is right now, I don’t think anybody is looking to purchase land,” he said.
He sold half of his ownership of the land in October to raise cash, and said he would like to sell the rest of it as well.
“I’m trying to unload everything,” he said.
This increases his incentive to improve the value of the land. He’s looking for cash now and wants to sell. What better way to make his property more attractive to potential investors than to get a shiny new stadium built within walking distance of his property?
The big issue here is the ownership of nearby property; the fact that he might have acquired it at an inappropriate time only would have added to the story. This fact needs to be published in the city’s largest newspaper. The story isn’t dead, and I think Gwinnett residents ought to know about Kenerly’s stake in nearby property.
Just today, I told a friend of mine who lives in Gwinnett County, “Kenerly owns land just down the street from the stadium.” I didn’t say a word about the timing of the sale. He responded, “I knew there was something dirty going on.” Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t, but this certainly deserves further scrutiny.