Augusta Commission committee action aids Georgia Regents University's mills campus plan

Augusta’s plan to develop a Mills Campus and Cultural Campus to support the growth of Georgia Regents University got a little push Tuesday when a commission committee authorized spending $300,000 and use of a city property to further develop the proposal.

The agenda addition, presented at the start of the city’s Engineering Services committee by Mayor Deke Copenhaver, gave Augusta Regional Collaboration Project use of a 1735 Goodrich Street property and $300,000. It passed 3-0 with Engineering chairman Joe Jackson absent.

The funds, according to an earlier presentation by ARC Project Director Matt Kwatinetz, will be used to “fully vet these projects and attract tenants, grants and private partners,” including the collection of environmental and other data at Sibley and King mills, to be redeveloped into rental space.

While little has been said publicly about the proposal’s support by the University System Board of Regents or Georgia Regents University, Copenhaver – who founded the ARC Project – said Tuesday he believed the Regents were “on board,” but that time to complete planning was running out.

In another matter, the city’s public services committee voted to suspend the license of Skittlez Bar and Grill for 30 days and place the Gordon Highway club on probation for six months after an April incident involving a 16-year-old patron and an adult dancer who was not permitted to perform at the club.

Sheriff’s Investigator Tony Hyatt said he’d learned of multiple instances of nudity at the club, while the teen had been “very openly proud of what he did on stage.”

Attorney for club owner Timothy Lowery, Hank Crane, said the violation was an isolated incident and that the club was reviewing its ID policy and obtaining an electronic card reader to verify IDs at the door. The motion to suspend Skittlez’ license passed 3-0 with Chairman Grady Smith absent. Afterward, Crane said he wasn’t sure of his client’s next steps.

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In other action, commission committees:

• Referred City Administrator Fred Russell’s request to extend for two years the city’s contract with Heery International to the full commission. Since 2003, the firm – along with contractors Dukes Edwards Duke and Gallop and Associates – has served as project manager on most city sales tax-funded construction projects.

• Agreed to lease for 50 years a 14-acre, city-owned riverfront tract to Savannah Riverkeeper, which has been removing trash from the site for several years. Riverkeeper Director Tonya Bonitatibus said she’ll seek federal Superfund dollars to fund further cleanup of contamination at the site, but with commission approval of the lease the group will have kayak trails out of the site within a few months.

• Agreed to a refund of penalties and interest owed by Vishad Patel on a former motel site at 1602 Gordon Highway. Patel said he bought the property at a bank foreclosure sale with unpaid taxes of $33,125 but wanted the commission to exempt him from paying them as he develops a small truck stop at the site.

• Agreed to abandon sections of Oak and Emmett streets within the campus of Paine College.

• Sent the administrator to work with Solid Waste Director Mark Johnson on some final tweaks to the city’s new garbage collection program, which begins next week. Two District 8 residents complained at the committee meeting about new requirements they pay for city garbage collection and a 300-foot setback requirement for residents to be exempt

• Agreed to hold a workshop on the issue of parking downtown, while a moratorium on parking tickets for exceeding the two-hour limit remains in effect. Downtown businesswoman Kay White said not enforcing the limit on weekends was hurting her antiques business, as were crime reports, but that the city continued to listen to “only the big property owners.”

• Agreed to adopt a rotating schedule for committee meetings, which have lasted five hours or more in recent weeks.

• Agreed during a called meeting of the full commission to spend $809,000 in sales tax funds to buy a section of Frontage Road off Mason McKnight Jr. Parkway from the Giddings Group, owned by developer Peter Caye III.

Topics page: Augusta-Richmond County Commission

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