Articles Posted in South Carolina Supreme Court

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The merits of this appeal centered on three parcels of land, serving as links in a chain necessary to satisfy contiguity requirements of annexation. The first link, the Ten-Foot Strip, was a ten-foot wide, 1.25 mile-long parcel of land in the National Forest, which was managed by the United States Forest Service. The second link was property owned by the Mt. Nebo AME Church (Church Tract), and the third link was approximately 360 acres of unimproved real estate surrounded by the National Forest on three sides (Nebo Tract). In the fall of 2003, the Town of Awendaw sought to annex the Ten-Foot Strip, which required a petition signed by the Forest Service. The Town's representatives sent the Forest Service four letters from November 2003 through February 2004 in an effort to obtain its approval. The sole question before the South Carolina Supreme Court was whether Petitioners Lynne Vicary, Kent Prause, and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League possessed standing to contest the Town’s annexation of land within the Francis Marion National Forest (Ten-Foot Strip). Because the Town allegedly acted nefariously in using a decade-old letter as a petition for annexation, the circuit court found Petitioners had standing and reached the merits. The court of appeals reversed, finding Petitioners lacked standing. The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, finding Petitioners had standing to challenge the annexation of the Ten-Foot Strip. View "Vicary v. Town of Awendaw" on Justia Law

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Respondent David Repko, the owner of two lots in Harmony Phase 2-D-1, commenced this action against the County alleging that the County negligently and grossly negligently failed to comply with or enforce its rules, regulations, and written policies governing its handling of a line of credit granted to a residential land developer in Harmony Township (part of Georgetown County, South Carolina). When the Developer began developing Harmony Phase 2-D-1 in 2006, the County determined it would allow the requirement of a financial guarantee to be satisfied by the Developer's posting of a letter of credit (LOC) to cover the remaining cost of completion of infrastructure. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted Georgetown County's petition for a writ of certiorari to review the court of appeals' decision in Repko v. County of Georgetown, 785 S.E.2d 376 (Ct. App. 2016). Georgetown County argued the court of appeals erred by: (1) construing the County Development Regulations as creating a private duty of care to Respondent David Repko; (2) holding the South Carolina Tort Claims Act1 (TCA) preempted certain language contained in the Regulations; (3) applying the "special duty" test; (4) finding Brady Development Co., Inc. v. Town of Hilton Head Island, 439 S.E.2d 266 (1993), distinguishable from this case; (5) reversing the trial court's ruling that the County was entitled to sovereign immunity under the TCA; and (6) rejecting the County's additional sustaining ground that Repko's claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The Supreme Court addressed only issue (5) and held the court of appeals erred in reversing the trial court's determination that the County was immune from liability under subsection 15-78- 60(4) of the TCA (2005); the Court therefore reversed the court of appeals and reinstated the directed verdict granted to the County by the trial court. View "Repko v. County of Georgetown" on Justia Law

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At issue before the South Carolina Supreme court was the propriety of the grant of partial summary judgment in a condemnation action. The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court's ruling that the landowner, David Powell, was not entitled to compensation for any diminution in value of his remaining property due to the rerouting of a major highway which previously was easily accessible from his property. South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) condemned a portion of Powell's 2.5 acre property in connection with its upgrade to U.S. Highway 17 Bypass (the Bypass) near the Backgate area of Myrtle Beach. His unimproved parcel, located on the corner of Emory Road and Old Socastee Highway, was originally separated from the Bypass by a power line easement and a frontage road; access to that major thoroughfare was via Emory Road, which intersected with the Bypass. Because Powell's property was zoned "highly commercial," his easy access to the Bypass significantly enhanced its value. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial. The record contained evidence the condemnation of Powell's property, the closure of the intersection, and the curving of the frontage road over the condemned parcel were all integrally connected components of the project, creating a material issue of fact as to which of these acts was a direct and proximate cause of the taking, thus rendering summary judgment improper. Employing the clear language of our just compensation statute, the Court held that a jury should have been permitted to hear evidence on the diminution in value to the remaining property. View "SCDOT v. Powell" on Justia Law

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This litigation arose after Respondent Kiawah Development Partners, II (KDP) applied for a permit to build an erosion control structure consisting of a bulkhead and revetment along the Kiawah River on Captain Sam's Spit in order to facilitate residential development of the upland property. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) denied the majority of the permit but granted a 270-foot portion to protect public access to Beachwalker Park. Thereafter, the Administrative Law Court (“ALC”) held a contested case hearing where KDP challenged DHEC's denial of the majority of the requested permit, and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League (the League) contested the issuance of the permit for the 270-foot structure and sought to uphold the denial of the remainder of the permit. After the ALC ruled in favor of KDP and issued an order authorizing the installation of a bulkhead and revetment running 2,783 feet along the shoreline, both DHEC and the League appealed to this Court. The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed and remanded the ALC's order, finding several errors of law in its application of the public trust and various provisions of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA). On remand, the ALC reconsidered the evidence presented at the hearing and authorized the installation of a 270-foot tandem bulkhead and revetment along the shoreline adjacent to the parking lot of Beachwalker Park, as well as a vertical bulkhead only that spanned an additional 2,513 feet along the shoreline of Captain Sam's Spit. Now on appeal, DHEC argued the ALC erred in approving the structure aside from the 270 feet protecting access to Beachwalker Park, while the League contested the entirety of the erosion control structure. The Supreme Court found a portion of the structure authorized by the ALC was not supported by substantial evidence, modified the ALC’s order and deleted the portion authorizing the permit for the bulkhead only. View "Kiawah Development v. SCDHEC" on Justia Law

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The Town of Hollywood filed suit against William Floyd, Troy Readen, and Edward McCracken (collectively, the developers) seeking a declaration that the developers could not subdivide their property without approval from the Town's Planning Commission and an injunction prohibiting subdivision of the property until such approval was obtained. The developers filed counterclaims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging equal protection and due process violations as well as various state law claims. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the Town on its claims for equitable and declaratory relief, and also granted the Town's motion for a directed verdict on the developers' state law claims. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Town on the developers' due process claim, but awarded the developers $450,000 in actual damages on their equal protection claim. Both parties appealed. The Town argued that the circuit court erred in denying its motions for a directed verdict and judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) on the developers' equal protection claim, and in granting the developers' motion for attorney's fees and costs. The developers argued the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the Town on its claims for equitable and declaratory relief. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Court concluded that the circuit court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the Town on its claims for declaratory and injunctive relief., but erred in denying the Town's motions for a directed verdict and JNOV because the developers failed to show the Planning Commission treated them differently than other similarly situated developers in the subdivision application process. View "Town of Hollywood v. Floyd" on Justia Law

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Appellants owned property in North Myrtle Beach bounded by water on the west and north. In early 2007, they applied to the Department of Health and Environmental Control ("DHEC") for a critical area permit to construct a replacement bulkhead. DHEC issued a Critical Area Permit to Appellants. The permit included a special condition: "Provided the proposed bulkhead is placed in the same location as the existing bulkhead." In response to a complaint, a DHEC Enforcement and Compliance Project manager inspected Appellants' property and observed the replacement bulkhead was partially constructed in a different location along the northern property line and that fill dirt had been placed in the area between the house and new bulkhead. DHEC issued Appellants various written warnings, including a Cease and Desist Directive and a Notice of Violation and Admission Letter. However, follow-up inspections revealed Appellants continued to alter the critical area and construct the replacement bulkhead in a different, unauthorized location. Accordingly, DHEC sent Appellants a Notice of Intent to Revoke the permit. Thereafter, (in 2010) DHEC issued a separate administrative enforcement order assessing against Appellants a civil penalty of $54,0002 and requiring Appellants to restore the impacted portion of the critical area to its previous condition. However, rather than requesting a contested case before the ALC, Appellants filed an action in circuit court seeking judicial review of the Enforcement Order de novo and requesting a final order "overturning [DHEC's] [Enforcement Order] and decision dated [. . .] 2010, with prejudice[.]" The circuit court granted DHEC's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court found section 48-39-180 did not confer jurisdiction on the circuit court to review administrative enforcement orders issued by DHEC. Rather, the circuit court held such orders were administrative in nature and governed by the APA. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court and affirmed dismissal of the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Berry v. SCDHEC" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case arose from an administrative law court's (ALC) decision authorizing Respondent Kiawah Development Partners to construct a bulkhead and revetment on Captain Sam's Spit (the Spit) on Kiawah Island. In 1999, the Office of Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) established a baseline and building set back line twenty feet landward based on information that the Spit had accreted, and had not been subject to any significant, measurable erosion between 1959 and 1999. The movement of the baseline prompted Respondent to consider development of the Spit. On February 29, 2008, Respondent submitted an application to DHEC for a permit to construct a combination bulkhead and revetment in the area. On December 18, 2008, DHEC issued a conditional permit approving the construction of the erosion control structure for a distance of 270 feet. DHEC refused the permit request for a remaining 2,513 feet based on its concerns regarding cumulative negative impacts, including interference with natural inlet formation and possible adverse effects on wintering piping plovers. DHEC also determined that the project was contrary to the policies set forth in the Coastal Zone Management Program (CZMP). Respondent requested a final review conference by the DHEC Board, but the Board declined to hold a review conference. Respondent then requested a contested case hearing before the ALC, and challenged the denial of the construction of a bulkhead and revetment along the remaining 2,513 feet. The Coastal Conservation League (CCL) opposed the construction of any bulkhead or revetment on the Spit, and also requested a contested case hearing challenging the decision to authorize the 270 foot structure, but supporting denial of the remainder. The cases were consolidated. The ALC granted Respondent's permit to construct the bulkhead and revetment, subject to certain conditions reducing and altering its size. DHEC and CCL (collectively, Appellants) appealed the ALC's order. The Supreme Court reversed the ALC and remanded the issue in a decision published in late 2011. The Court subsequently granted Respondent's petition for rehearing, and accepted an amicus brief from the Savannah River Maritime Commission (the SRMC). The Court then withdrew its initial opinion, and issue this opinion, affirmed the decision of the ALC. "The essence of Appellants' argument is rooted in dissatisfaction with the verbiage and structure of the ALC's order, and not in actual errors of law or the absence of substantial evidence. The ALC acted within the permissible scope of its authority in modifying the existing permit to include a structure no larger than that requested by Respondent or initially reviewed by DHEC. On appeal of a contested case, we must affirm the ALC if the findings are supported by substantial evidence." View "Kiawah Development v. SCDHEC" on Justia Law

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In a direct appeal to the Supreme Court, Appellant Dunes West Golf Club, LLC, challenged the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Respondent Town of Mount Pleasant. In 2006, the Town of Mount Pleasant amended its zoning ordinance to create the Conservation Recreation Open Space zoning district, which imposed land-use restrictions on all golf course properties in Mount Pleasant, permitting only recreation and conservation uses. Appellant desired to carve out residential lots on its golf course property by designating several noncontiguous parcels as potential home sites. Because the new zoning designation did not permit construction of new homes, Appellant sought to have the golf course property rezoned to allow residential development. The Town denied the rezoning request, and Appellant filed suit, claiming the Town's actions violated its equal protection and due process rights, and amounted to an unconstitutional taking of its property. Following discovery, the Town of Mount Pleasant successfully moved for summary judgment. The Court carefully reviewed each assignment of error and found summary judgment was properly granted. View "Dunes West v. Town of Mount Pleasant" on Justia Law

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Appellant Library Associates purchased a building located at 404 King Street (404 King) which was formerly the main branch of the Charleston County Public Library. Charleston City Council adopted Zoning Ordinance 2007-147, which rezoned the entire 404 King property. Respondents Historic Charleston Foundation and Preservation Society of Charleston then brought this action to challenge the ordinance's legality. The master invalidated the ordinance finding it was unlawful spot zoning. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed: "Zoning ordinances are presumed valid and the person attacking one bears the burden of showing the zoning decision is arbitrary, unreasonable, and unjust. In passing on the validity of a zoning ordinance, it is not within a court's prerogative to pass upon the wisdom or expediency of the municipality's decision. Respondents did not meet their heavy burden here." View "Historic Charleston v. City of Charleston" on Justia Law

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Appellant East Cherry Grove Realty Co., LLC, appealed a jury verdict which found that South Carolina held title to certain disputed canals in North Myrtle Beach. The question was submitted to the jury on three theories: that two quitclaim deeds established title in the canals; that the canals had been dedicated to the public; and that the State held title to the canals in trust for the public. The jury returned a verdict for the State on all three theories. Appellant argued that the trial court erred when it denied Appellant’s motions for directed verdict on each theory. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the question of ownership under the quitclaim deeds was properly submitted to the jury and therefore affirmed the verdict. View "City of North Myrtle Beach v. East Cherry Grove Realty" on Justia Law