CHARLOTTE -- A judge has denied Jerry Reese's motions to halt construction of a minor league baseball park in Charlotte, effectively giving a green light to a years-long effort to bring the Charlotte Knights away from Fort Mill and to uptown Charlotte.
In a ruling issued Friday, Judge David Lee said the Mecklenburg Board of Commissioners acted within N.C. law in making a deal with the Charlotte Knights to put a baseball stadium on county land between Mint, Graham and Fourth streets and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Charlotte.
The ruling says the county didn't act inappropriately or illegally when it used bond money to grade and seed the county property and later replenished that money with cash from the general fund.
"I think the judge's ruling is a giant step forward to getting us to the point where we can begin moving forward to get this stadium in place," said commission Vice Chair Parks Helms, who for years has been the board's strongest advocate for the effort to build an uptown stadium. "It's a very strong affirmation that the steps the county has taken ... have been taken in accordance with the law and consistent with what we have said from the very beginning."
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Helms said all the parties involved in the land swap will have to review the ruling, but he expects them to quickly make final the land transfers that would free up the Third Ward stadium site. Helms said commissioners probably will receive a report from their attorneys on Aug. 5, after which the board can act on its portion of the land swap.
The ballot given to Mecklenburg County voters in 2004 said that $69 million in park bonds would be used for a variety of park and recreation facilities other than a stadium for professional baseball -- something county commissioners had agreed to in at least two meetings before the referendum.
The county spent about $370,000 of the bond money to clear buildings and prepare the property when it was being considered for a park.
The lawsuit claims that once the county started using bond money to develop the park site, it meant the property could never be used for a baseball stadium.
In January, county commissioners approved a lease allowing the Knights to build their stadium. However, no significant construction has begun on the site because of the ongoing lawsuits. Reese, a Charlotte attorney who wants to bring major-league baseball to Charlotte, has filed multiple suits to stop the minor-league baseball deal.