With months of unpaid stormwater fees and no development deal in sight, the owners of Regency Mall have begun digging up the mall’s parking lot.
Acres of crumbling asphalt had been removed by Tuesday from the mall’s northwest parking area, revealing the dirt beneath.
A call to mall owner Cardinal Management principal James McKinnon was not returned.
The owners have yet to pay the city stormwater fee – which is charged against a property owner’s square feet of impervious surface – that was first implemented in 2016, according to city records. Due to a billing glitch, the 72-acre property wasn’t billed at all for 11 months. But starting in August, it was billed approximately $6,300 per month, none of which has been paid.
Augusta Engineering Director Hameed Malik said the owners have submitted no application for a land disturbance permit, stormwater credit application or any development plan whatsoever for the property.
The city ordered the digging to stop because there was no erosion control plan in place for the activities taking place adjacent to a creek, Malik said.
Malik said it was likely the asphalt was being removed to reduce the property’s stormwater liability.
The vacant mall was eyed by Mayor Hardie Davis as the future site of a new James Brown Arena, but after months of debate, the Augusta Commission opted to ask voters on the May 22 ballot whether they prefer the site or the current arena site downtown, in a nonbinding ballot question.
Cardinal had made few concessions in efforts by the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority to negotiate a development deal aside from donating 10 acres upon which the arena would be built.
The commission has discussed condemning the blighted site, which is listed for sale at $63 million. The property is taxed at just $2.2 million.