County: Owner of West Ashley shopping center has until March 9 to clean up property

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The owner of a neglected West Ashley shopping center has until March 9 to clean up the property's parking lot, according to a Charleston County spokesman.

The lawsuit against the owners of Church Creek Plaza on Highway 61, a Michigan Co-Partnership of Morton L. Sholnick and Church Creek Plaza, LLC, was dismissed on Feb. 12 after a resolution was reached Thursday regarding its cleanup and future demolition.

Court records state the owners of Church Creek Plaza have agreed to clean up the parking lot and demolish the shopping center within 90 days. According to the resolution, the owners also agreed to manage the vegetation and remove solid waste on the property within 14 days, and continue the upkeep every other week. They also must repair drainage structures and unsecured manholes in the parking lot.

The documents were filed on Monday, according to Charleston County spokesman Shawn Smetana, which means that March 9 is the deadline. Smetana said Sholnick's original signature was required for the documents and that was done through the mail.

"We met with Mr. Sholnick's representatives on-site this week and discussed work effort and scheduling," Smetana said.

The once booming shopping center on Hwy 61 in West Ashley now sits almost empty, filled with trash, graffiti and overgrown weeds.

"This has been the worst example in Charleston County of having someone who has refused to maintain their property safely for others," Charleston County Council member Colleen Condon said.

Over the next 90 days, the owners of the property must demolish and remove all structures on the property. Court documents state the owners must do several things to "maintain and prevent the defacement and vandalism of the property" leading up to its demolition.

Both sides can agree to extend the demolition deadline. If there is an extension, the owners "shall use reasonable efforts to secure the buildings against entry," the court order states.

The owners will have 14 days after the shopping center is demolished to hire a third party contractor to maintain the property until it is sold.

In addition to the maintenance and demolition of the shopping center, the owners will also pay fines for failing to have proper documentation to conduct business for the past several years.

People who live and work near the shopping center were pleased to hear something apparently is finally going to be done.

"I think it's wonderful. It's an eyesore for years and since the Piggly Wiggly has moved out, there's been nothing done so I'm thrilled," said Genie Graggs, who owns a business near Church Creek Plaza.

"It's an eyesore. There's lots of graffiti, it's been abandoned for while and it gives a really bad impression of the area when you see an eyesore like that," said Jamie Gregson, who attends church near the shopping center.

The court order states the owners of Church Creek Plaza must obtain a certificate of authority to transact business in South Carolina, and pay a fine of $1,000 to Charleston County for failing to have the certificate from 2010-2014. They must also get a business license from the county, and pay $1,046.88 for not having one since 2008.

The condition of the shopping center was just one of the reasons Charleston County decided to file suit. Officials were also worried about crime, with authorities responding to roughly 50 documented incident in the plaza.

The filed an injunction with the owners on August 26, 2014. In response to the consent order, the owners suggested the demolition of the shopping center, but never committed to a plan.

A hearing concerning the future of Church Creek Plaza scheduled for Thursday morning was canceled, as the resolution had been reached before hand.

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