News 12 at 6 o'clock/ Friday, Dec.13th, 2013
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (WRDW) -- A lawsuit against the city of North Augusta is sparking controversy between the people who filed it.
The River Club Homeowner's Association filed the suit over the financing plan for Project Jackson. It names the city of North Augusta, the mayor, and the city council as defendants.
It claims the "blight" referenced as reasoning for the tax incremental financing doesn't exist. It also accuses the city of not complying with South Carolina's Freedom of Information Act and making decisions in private executive sessions.
It's been Steve Donohue's argument at public meetings since day one.
"We're going through using a statute to eliminate blight, and we're lying to everybody! That's what it comes down to, Mr. Mayor," said Donohue, the River Club Homeowner's Association President, at the City Council hearing.
He spoke at almost every public meeting about Project Jackson.
"We are torturing a law using a 22 year old study on blight and saying, 'Oh my God! It's still blighted, and I don't want to look. I don't want to look," he said to the council.
Despite his argument, the financing plan was approved. So Monday, he filed a lawsuit against the city of North Augusta.
"We tried and tried and tried," said River Club resident Regina Reddy.
She sat at meeting after meeting with Donohue.
"We we're not ever heard. We were listened to, but they didn't take us seriously," she said.
She says she hates it came down to this, but doesn't see another option.
"When you read it, it sounds so ugly, but they were not listening to us," said Reddy.
But not everyone agrees with the filing of the lawsuit.
"We do want people to know everybody in this community does not support this lawsuit," said River Club resident Lee Wetherington.
He says he was surprised to find out the suit had been filed naming the River Club Homeowner's Association as a plaintiff.
"If they want to file a law suit against the city individually that's totally up to them. We have no control over that, but we all pay money into the Homeowner's Association. We ought to be represented fairly," said Wetherington.
He says whether you agree or disagree with what's in the suit, that's not the point.
"It should've just never been filed. If you were gonna file a lawsuit, I guess those were the proper things to put in there, but the fact is that's not the route that we want to take," he explained.
Now he and his neighbors are trying to figure out what to do.
"My phone has rung off the hook for the past two days since this has come out and we got a group together that are looking into it and we're gonna try to do a poll of the neighborhood to see where people stand on it," he said.
Wetherington says ultimately they want to see the lawsuit withdrawn as soon as possible. They plan to get out and talk with neighbors this weekend to find out the overall consensus. They have their annual HOA meeting in January. He says nothing should have been decided until after that.
Wetherington says the HOA did put away money at the last meeting to look into potential legal actions, but he says that money was for looking into options. Not actually filing a lawsuit.