Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Watson Hill legal battle over

Watson Hill remains within the City of North Charleston

Watson Hill tract highlighted in green

After a protracted legal battle, litigation over the Watson Hill tract annexation has concluded.  No further legal challenges remain outstanding and the tract shall remain a part of the City of North Charleston.  The City, property owner MeadWestvaco Corporation (MWV), and the Coastal Conservation League (CCL) all look forward to the property becoming a national example of productive land use accomplished with sensitivity to its natural beauty, environment, and neighbors.

On June 7, 2005, North Charleston City Council voted to annex five vacant parcels located on Highway 61 and 165 in Dorchester County, including the Watson Hill tract.  The annexation immediately met legal opposition, and a portion of the case was heard by the South Carolina Supreme Court (See Opinion No. 26492), before the dispute ultimately concluded with the property becoming confirmed territory of the City of North Charleston.  Watson Hill is currently a part of MWV’s acclaimed East Edisto master plan.

North Charleston Mayor R. Keith Summey stated, “I am very happy to see an end to the dispute over the annexation of Watson Hill.  Although initial concerns over the annexation were ones of land use, I believe that with award winning and publicly recognized projects such as Oak Terrace Preserve, the Montague Avenue revitalization, and various parks / preserves, North Charleston has proven itself during my administration to be a leader in sustainable practices and development.  The City welcomes the opportunity to further our vision of sustainable, green, and smart growth by teaming with Lowcountry residents, MWV, and the Coastal Conservation League.  Together, we can ensure Watson Hill becomes another area of great pride in the City of North Charleston.”  Mayor Summey continued, “I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the diligent work of Julie Elmore and Raymond Anderson, Special Assistants to the Mayor, and the City’s legal staff, Brady Hair and Derk Van Raalte to resolve this annexation suit.  We are fortunate to have these dedicated individuals serving the people of North Charleston.”

Coastal Conservation Director, Dana Beach, said, "Our driving concern for Watson Hill was the potential for four thousand or more houses on the property.  We are confident that the plan proposed by MeadWestvaco, which includes perpetual conservation easements on the majority of the tract, will protect the integrity of the Ashley River historic district.  The critical goal has always been land conservation, not jurisdictional control."

In recent years, the City of North Charleston has received a number of accolades and recognition highlighting its sustainable practices, including the Home Depot Foundation’s Award of Excellence for Sustainable Community Development and the National League of Cities Award for Municipal Excellence for Sustainable Urban Development.  In addition, Oak Terrace Preserve, a city development was named one of the nation’s Top Green Developments according to Green Builder Magazine and was named one of the nation’s leading projects by renowned ‘green’ expert Jerry Yudelson.

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