Charleston County officials are getting more aggressive in their to push to get the owner of the abandoned and crumbling Church Creek Plaza strip mall in West Ashley to clean it up.
A hearing for owner Morton Scholnick on alleged violations of the county's nuisance and dumping ordinances was scheduled for Wednesday, but the hearing was delayed because Scholnick's local lawyer, Richard Rosen, had a schedule conflict, said Daniel Pennick, the county's planning director. A new date for a hearing on that ordinance violation has not been set, Pennick said.
On Jan. 22 the county also charged Scholnick, who is from Troy, Mich., with violating the county's unsafe building, weeds and solid waste ordinances. Pennick said he's not sure whether those ordinance violations will end up in court.
Rosen declined a request to comment Tuesday.
People who live near the abandoned strip mall have complained and repeatedly reached out to public officials about overgrown weeds, broken windows, graffiti, garbage and vagrants who hang out in and around the vacant shops.
If the strip mall, which sits on the corner of S.C. Highway 61 and Parsonage Road, were in the city of Charleston, officials could clean it up and place a lien against the owner for the cost. But it falls in an unincorporated part of Charleston County, in a "doughnut hole" surrounded by city property. Under state law, the county doesn't have the right to place a lien.
County Councilwoman Colleen Condon, who represents the area, said that in addition to charging Scholnick with new violations, the county will ask a judge to allow the county to clean up the property, and to charge Scholnick for the cost of the work.
The county never has done that before, but Scholnick's repeated non-compliance makes it necessary for officials to ask for a way to have more leverage in getting the mall cleaned up, she said. "We're being much more aggressive. We're trying to make sure Mr. Scholnick knows the county is serious."
Pennick said Scholnick has taken at least a small step forward. On Monday, he said, a contractor hired by Scholnick was at Church Creek Plaza. He was beginning to clean up debris, secure doors on the shops and cut down the weeds, Pennick said. And the contractor is talking with the St. Andrews Fire Department about how best to block the entrances to the mall to make it more difficult for people to enter the parking lot and dump trash there.
Condon said the county will continue to monitor conditions at Church Creek Plaza to make sure the cleanup continues. "One way or another, we need to have that eyesore resolved."
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.