AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — Plans to move forward with a revitalization effort in downtown Aiken are on hold. It’s leaving some asking why. “This sign that says withdrawn to me, just symbolizes the confusion that is surrounding this project,” Donald Moniak told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk.
Moniak is just one person who lives in Aiken County who believes plans to revitalize downtown Aiken are not being shared with the public. He’s been following the project since it first started. Signs posted near several properties indicate the application has been withdrawn – instead of postponed. “The difference between postponed is if we knew a date to kick it to, we would’ve done that, but we don’t know a date certain. So we’ll just go back through the process of a two-week application when it’s ready to go on the agenda,” economic development director Tim O’Brien said.
O’Brien says the change is due to the July 4th weekend and COVID concerns. “Then you have to ask, why did the city schedule the meeting on July 5th in the first place, hang up 45 signs around downtown and then decide to cancel it afterward? That does not speak to any kind of sense of competency,” Moniak said. “So waiting a couple of weeks to further the discussion on whether to make a very important decision, that can’t be undone on whether to demolish, buildings that have been with us for some time. It’s just the next step in the process and it’ll get done in due time,” O’Brien added.
O’Brien says there have been nearly 30 public meetings on the issue within the last two years. He says city leaders are running Aiken like a business. “Businesses don’t invite all of their customers and board members in or every discussion about what’s gonna be done because quite frankly, it’s not because they don’t want people to know, or they don’t want the inputs it’s because you can’t get anything done in that environment,” he said.
“It seems like the city of Aiken is treating the downtown like a Greenfield site. Like it’s a vacant lot that doesn’t already have thriving, successful businesses. And, and that’s just not correct. You know, there’s people who work down here who have jobs and businesses, and they’re not being treated fairly,” Moniak added.
O’Brien also told Shawn if the developer doesn’t submit another application, the project would be over, but he’s confident it will continue.