AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — Aiken City leaders are one step closer to canceling an ordinance that would have changed the face of downtown. Project Pascalis called for demolishing several historic buildings and replacing them with a new hotel, apartments, and parking garage.
“I couldn’t believe that they were giving it to a company at the time that was under two months old,” Kelly Cornelius told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk.
Under the proposal, a portion of Newberry Street would have been transferred to a company called RPM Development Partners to build those new buildings. That transfer was contingent upon Project Pascalis moving forward.
“I thought, how can you give a City street a way to a developer?,” Cornelius said.
The street would’ve lost its median but remained two-way. Two lawsuits challenged the changes. They were dismissed on a technicality.
“Less than 24 hours after our cases were heard last Wednesday, they put on the agenda officially the first reading to rescind this ordinance. So wrong jurisdiction or not. That was what I was seeking, so I, I’m happy about that.” she added.
Developers and city leaders “proposed” to cancel the contract for the $75 million project in September. Court documents stated the development plan was on hold after key portions were rescinded.
“I saw that it was represented by the city attorney’s law partner that was, that concerned me and I don’t think anyone really knew that. So when citizens brought that up, they continued on. So that’s been a concern of mine,” Cornelius said.
City leaders issued the following statement — citing a lack of transparency:
“I and another member of the AMDC Executive Committee met with a senior city staff member on July 6, 2022, to express concerns related to staff’s failure to follow state statute regarding the Pascalis RFP process. This included problems with the lack of transparency from the staff to the AMDC about events involving representatives of the city that transpired from November 20, 2021, up to the meeting of June 23, 2022.”Keith Wood – Aiken Municipal Development Commission Chairman
Meanwhile, two meetings, including a public hearing, will take place before any changes to Newberry Street are made. The next meeting will be on November 14.
“I think the next step, because of the problems and the black eye that the ADC has caused this city, I’ve been asking them to abolish the ADC and then, you know, we don’t have to worry about the secrecy, Let’s start again. That is my hope that they will come to that same conclusion.” she added.