Aiken City Manager John Klimm was granted permission on Monday to move forward with developer negotiations for the downtown revitalization project.

The resolution before Council passed unanimously. It allows the City Manager to appoint a citizen’s advisory team that will advise Klimm and his staff throughout negotiations. More specifically, the group is will have input on architectural design and proposed uses for the downtown properties involved.

Mayor Rick Osbon recused himself from discussion and exited the meeting before Council voted on the resolution. A business competitor is a tenant on Newberry Street, which may be developed under the City’s plan, and Osbon stated for the record that he did not want to give the appearance of impropriety.

Four well-known developers submitted proposals in answer to the City’s request for them earlier this month. They are Carbon Properties of Charlotte; RAL Development Services of New York; Southeastern Development Associates of neighboring Augusta; and WW-TW Enterprises of Graniteville.

The request for proposals issued last December calls for housing, retail and office space, and a potential parking garage in downtown’s historic core. A major focus of the plan is consolidating City of Aiken services by expanding the Municipal Building on Park Avenue. Doing so would allow the City to dispose of surplus property better suited for future businesses.

A five-person selection committee of City staff has reviewed the proposals, and during a public meeting Monday afternoon ranked from 1 to 4 the most advantageous to the least. First is Carbon Properties; second is Southeastern Development Associates; third is WW-TWT Enterprises; and fourth is RAL Development Services.

Every developer is under consideration, but the hierarchy establishes the first company the City will approach for discussion. In this case, if an agreement cannot be reached with Carbon Properties, No. 1 on the list, discussions will move to the second-ranked firm, and so on, according the terms of the resolution.

The Citizens Advisory Team will participate in those discussions. Members are: Kristyne Shelton, Philip Windsor, Larry Comegys, Wilber Lane, Jane Page Thompson, Larry Ogletree, Jason Rabun, Tim Simmons, Jenne Stoker, Bob Alexander, Sam Erb, Barbara Stafford, Gene Hart and Julie Whitesell.

From here, the City Manager will assemble the advisory group, and a series of public meetings will be scheduled in to gather comments from residents. The first of those meetings will likely focus parking issues and a potential parking garage, Klimm said Monday. The second will involve the possible Municipal Building expansion.