Charleston Co. could face lawsuit with vote to terminate Chicora Life Center Lease

Charleston Co. could face lawsuit with vote to terminate Chicora Life Center Lease

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Charleston County could be facing a lawsuit if council members decide to terminate a lease with Chicora Life Center at Tuesday's council meeting.

Thursday night council member in the Finance Committee took an initial vote to back out of the project.

The plan was to have a myriad of social, government, non-profit and care facilities all in one building.

Chicora Life Center was supposed to take over the former Charleston Naval Hospital on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston, with County offices serving as the anchor tenant.

The Life Center, owned by Chicora Gardens Holdings, LLC, features almost 400,000 square feet of Class A medical office, meeting, retail and public space.

Friday Douglas Durbano, manager of Chicora Life Center, said several agencies and services have already signed leases including Fetter Health Care Network, Inc., Charleston County Vital Records and Charleston County Coroner's Office.

An anchor tenant, in this case the County, serves as a way to attract other clients into leasing a space.

With the possible termination of this lease, Durbano said Friday they're thinking about taking legal action.

"This council is being persuaded to end the lease," said Charleston County Council member Henry Darby Thursday night at the committee meeting. "We're going to be sued, and we're going to lose."

Darby, Anna Johnson and Teddie Pryor were the three finance committee members to vote against the termination of the lease.

Darby feels by the county terminating the lease, it's going to hurt the residents the most.

"There's people hungry out there, as we all know," he said. "Because you're hurting the very people who I love the best. That's poor people, black and whites."

The Life Center would serve as a social services hub in the middle of Charleston County in an area in need of these services.

In the motion made Thursday, it reads:

"On May 8, 2015, Charleston County notified Chicora Life Center in response to Chicora's "ready for occupancy" letter dated May 1, 2015, that it had 30 days to complete the tenant improvements pursuant to Article 19. Events of Default of the Lease for 3600 Rivers Avenue.

On August 26, 2015, the County provided a second notification to Chicora that if Chicora had not cured its default of fulfilling the preconditions and its obligations of the Lease by November 1, 2015, the County would consider Chicora in breach of the Lease and terminate the Lease.

Chicora has failed to cure the default and contends that the facility is ready for occupancy without the preconditions being met, to include, the necessary licenses being issued by the appropriate licensing agencies. Therefore, the County's purpose under the Lease and need for the facility have been frustrated.

For the reason stated above, I move that Charleston County Council terminate the Lease for 3600 Rivers Avenue date June 30, 2014, between Chicora Life Center and Charleston County."

"I'm shocked," Durbano said during a phone interview Friday. "That motion is full of half truths and unadulterated lies."

Durbano went on to say the County offices could have moved in by May 1 of last year, but he said the County wanted additional tenant improvements.

"I believe we have been overly generous with accommodations with this lease," said council member Colleen Condon. "I believe continuing forward with this lease is what puts our taxpayers at risk."

Chairman Elliott Summey didn't comment about the possible lawsuit Friday, but said, "The County remains committed to finding a location for these services. We're leaving all options on the table."

The County's lease with Chicora was for 25 years.

Durbano said they have put nearly $30-million into the renovation of this building for the tenants.

County Council will take this issue up on Tuesday's agenda.

Durbano said an attorney for Chicora Life Center will likely be in attendance.

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