South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Ernest Kinard ruled in favor of the city in a lawsuit challenging a riverfront development that includes a new baseball stadium for the Augusta GreenJackets, according to North Augusta City Administrator Todd Glover.
“The City of North Augusta is pleased with the ruling from Judge Kinard,” Glover said in a statement. “The judge found that the city followed the law in every detail in pursuing the project. After over 12 public meetings, the approval of three local governments and now an expansive review by the courts, it is our hope that the city will now be able to move forward with this exciting project.”
Kinard’s order was not filed Tuesday with the Aiken County Clerk of Court. Glover said Kinard informed attorneys for both sides of the lawsuit of his decision on Monday, but the city does not have a signed order yet.
Kelly Zier, an attorney for the city, said copies of the order were likely in the mail.
Stephen Donohue, a North Augusta homeowner who opposes the site for a new GreenJackets stadium, sued the city in December, claiming the city violated the state’s Tax Increment Financing law when it created an ordinance to fund the project.
He said there was no evidence to support the development area as blighted, a requirement for a TIF district.
Kinard heard arguments in the trial on July 18 in Aiken County. Both sides were asked to submit proposals on what the ruling should be.
Project Jackson is a proposed $144 million development that also includes a hotel, conference center and retail and residential space.
Belton Zeigler, an attorney representing North Augusta in the lawsuit, said he wasn’t surprised by the judge’s decision, which showed the city followed the TIF statute during public hearings and other proceedings.
“We always had a great deal of confidence in our case. It was a case that we had all the facts and all the laws on our side,” he said. “North Augusta is moving ahead. The developer is 100 percent behind the project.”
Donohue has 30 days to file a notice of appeal, Zeigler said.