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South Carolina

SC conservation lawsuit still standing after clearing an early legal hurdle | Business

The resilience of a mid-Nineties land preservation treaty in South Carolina is being examined in court docket.

It’s holding up – to date.

The proprietor of a historic rice plantation in Georgetown County discovered final week that he can contest adjustments made 14 years in the past to an settlement defending his property from large-scale growth.

U.S. District Court Judge David Norton dominated that MST LLC has sufficient pores and skin at stake — or “standing” — to proceed with a federal lawsuit it filed earlier this 12 months to reverse and invalidate the appeals make.

The firm, owned by a former Las Vegas on line casino mogul and his now ex-wife, is suing Georgetown Memorial Hospital and the North American Land Trust.

SC plantation owner, hospital in court over once-protected land

It’s about roughly 65 acres that the medical heart owns and has been making an attempt to unload US Highway 701 close to the confluence of the Pee Dee and Black rivers and about 3 miles up the street from its most important campus.

The vacant land was beforehand protected by a conservation easement {that a} former Weehaw Plantation proprietor agreed to donate in trade for state and federal tax breaks. The late 1995 contract restricted growth to about two-thirds of what’s now a 1,030-acre coastal recreation space.

Georgetown Planning Commission Affordable Housing Development (copy)

Georgetown Memorial Hospital initially bought roughly 65 acres at Weehaw Plantation alongside US Highway 701 for a brand new medical campus. File/Provided/Georgetown Planning Commission

When the hospital purchased its piece of land in 2008, the easement phrases had been modified to exempt that portion of the property from restrictions.

MST entered the scene two years later.

The household enterprise, which was partially owned by Jim Murren, the CEO of MGM Resorts International from 2012 to 2020, purchased Weehaw for $6.4 million in two transactions in 2010 and 2013.

hospital for residing

MST now argues that the easement requires that 593 acres it owns and the adjoining Georgetown Memorial parcel be “encumbered in perpetuity.” It additionally mentioned eradicating a part of the mixed tract violates state and federal tax legal guidelines as a result of a earlier proprietor had already benefited from the preservation-based deductions for years.

The Summerville group is suing the county over plans to build a gas station in the preserve

Weehaw was put in a headlock by Larry Young, a Grand Strand golf magnate who died about two years in the past. The North American Land Trust, headquartered in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, is called within the lawsuit as having jurisdiction over the easement.

Weehaw Plantation (copy)

The gated entrance to Weehaw Plantation is simply off Highway 701 in Georgetown. File/John McDermott/Staff

A duplicate of the unique doc filed with Georgetown County says the aim was to guard the scenic views seen from public roads and to make sure an “ecologically stable environment” for native Lowcountry vegetation and wildlife. The critically endangered Red-cocked Woodpecker is likely one of the species on the property.

When Georgetown Memorial purchased its piece of Weehaw 14 years in the past, within the pre-MST period, it deliberate to construct a hospital and physician’s places of work on the positioning. But rising property values ​​lately and adjustments in its strategic priorities prompted it to promote as an alternative.

The medical supplier and the Land Trust mentioned in court docket paperwork that MST by no means made a fuss in regards to the revised easement till it was introduced that a part of the 65 acres could be offered for an reasonably priced housing undertaking. They have claimed that the Weehaw proprietor’s true motive was “to prevent the property from being used in a way that MST and other neighboring landowners believe will lower their own property value.”

“It can’t be developed in any way, they say,” Georgetown Memorial legal professional Wes Moran mentioned at a court docket listening to in Charleston final month.

Norton raised this concern with MST legal professional Trenholm Walker.

“Would we be here today if they had laid the foundation for a new hospital?” requested the decide within the Oct. 25 trial.

“I think we would,” Walker replied.

Still stands

Georgetown Memorial’s most important argument was that MST had not met any of the legal thresholds that might qualify it to file a lawsuit. For instance, it doesn’t personal the land at concern and has no energy to implement conservation easements.

SC Land Group is suing as a

Norton has centered on an exception hidden within the language of the 1995 doc. One settlement says that the heirs to the unique “grant” of the easement – the late Mr Young – who lawfully personal the property “or any part thereof” are entitled to their day in court docket.

“As a grantee, MST has … standing of action,” Norton dominated.

Walker mentioned Wednesday the lawsuit is now continuing as common towards a potential trial date.

According to an on-line advertising and marketing brochure, MST is making an attempt to promote Weehaw for $6.8 million, together with the farming tools. The deliberate reasonably priced housing undertaking was placed on maintain.

Walker mentioned the lawsuit might later have “further implications” for patrons and sellers of properties certain by legally binding, tax-friendly preservation pacts that had been, at the least in concept, meant to final eternally.

“I think it’s a common perception that as easements age and as new owners come into the picture, questions about the validity of easements will arise,” he mentioned.

And in all probability some headwind too.

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