Originally created 03/31/04

Panel grants OK for action



Augusta Commission members have given City Attorney Steve Shepard the go-ahead to pursue legal action against the owner of the Club at Raes Creek for building a clubhouse there without city approval.

However, talks between Mr. Shepard and attorney Jack Long, who is representing the clubhouse owner, Richard Cutler, were to begin Tuesday and could produce a solution that allows construction to move forward.

Mr. Long said a possible compromise could involve either converting some tennis courts to parking or creating a second entrance to Forest Hills Racquet Club apartments on Jackson Road, which he believes would alleviate traffic concerns in the area.

"I think it can be solved," said Mr. Long, noting that he believes the only problem with the clubhouse plan is the parking issue and not the Rae's Creek flood plain.

On March 24, Augusta's Planning Commission denied a parking variance for the clubhouse, saying the current number of parking spaces for the expanded clubhouse isn't adequate and must be resolved before the clubhouse can be used.

Mayor Bob Young also has been outspoken against the construction because the owner "doesn't have any permits."

"If the talks break down, his building is going to come down," the mayor said Tuesday.

Mr. Shepard said talks are taking place "to see if we can join and come up with a solution." He said he will then make a recommendation to commissioners.

The three-story, 8,000-square-foot clubhouse expansion is designed to attract major tennis tournaments and offer a restaurant, sports bar and fitness center. It would also house Mr. Cutler's law office.

This week, a professional women's tennis tournament is taking place at the club. Portables were brought in because the clubhouse can't be used.

In January, city officials said, clubhouse builders were cited and fined $500 for building without a permit.

At that time, Mr. Cutler was told to stop construction until a site plan was submitted and approved by the city's planning and zoning department, city officials said.

In February, the clubhouse was only a few weeks away from being completed when the city learned that work was continuing and stopped construction.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.