Articles Posted in South Carolina Supreme Court

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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

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The property which was the subject of this appeal was owned by Appellant Peggy McMaster and located in the City of Columbia in the immediate vicinity of the University of South Carolina. Pursuant to the Ordinance, only one "family" may occupy a single dwelling unit. At the time this dispute arose, the property was occupied by four unrelated individuals—Appellant Gray McGurn and three other young women, all of whom were undergraduate students at the University of South Carolina. After receiving a neighborhood complaint, the City's Zoning Administrator conducted an investigation and determined the occupants violated the Ordinance. McMaster appealed the violation notice to the City's Board of Zoning Appeals arguing the Ordinance was not violated and in the alternative, the Ordinance was unconstitutional. Following a hearing, the Board affirmed the zoning violation. Appellants appealed the Board's decision to the circuit court. The circuit court found the Ordinance's definition of "family" did not violate the Due Process Clause of the South Carolina Constitution. Following its review, the Supreme Court found the Ordinance was a valid exercise of the City's broad police power and that there was a rational relationship between the City's decision to limit the number of unrelated individuals who may live together as a single housekeeping unit and the legitimate governmental interests of controlling the undesirable qualities associated with "mass student congestion." View "McMaster v. Columbia Board of Zoning" on Justia Law

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The South Carolina Coastal Conservation League (League) and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) appealed an administrative law judge's (ALJ) order that allowed Respondent Kiawah Development Partners to construct erosion control devices in a critical zone on Captain Sam's Spit (Spit). Respondent owend a peninsula (Spit) which lies primarily south of Kiawah Island, surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean, Kiawah River and Captain Sam's Inlet which separates the Spit from Seabrook Island. For the past sixty years, the Spit has been "growing," accreting sand on the ocean side at a greater rate than it has been losing ground to erosion on the river side. Respondent leased oceanfront property near the neck to the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission, which operates Beachwalker Park there. Respondent sought a permit from DHEC to erect a 2,783 foot bulkhead/revetment combination along the Kiawah River, with the structure to begin at the neck, that is, at Beachwalker Park. DHEC authorized construction of the proposed erosion control device for 270 feet, beginning at Beachwalker Park, and denied the remaining portion of the request. Both the League and Respondent requested a contested case hearing before the ALJ, the League to protest the portion of the permit request which was granted, and Respondent to challenge the portion denied. The Appellants contended the ALJ failed to give the deference due DHEC's interpretation of the statutes and regulations, and further that he exceeded his authority in rewriting the permit, resulting in one with terms neither approved by DHEC nor sought by Respondent. Upon review of the ALJ's ruling and the applicable legal standards, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded, finding the ALJ's decision was "affected by numerous errors of law … beginning with the ALJ's misunderstanding of the applicable statutes, regulations, and public policies, and concluding with his erroneous effort to craft a new permit, one which has never been sought by respondent, nor reviewed by OCRM, and which he, in any case, lack[ed] the authority to issue." View "Kiawah Development v. So. Car. Dept. of Health & Environ. Cont." on Justia Law

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Respondent Atlantic Coast Builders & Contractors, LLC brought an action against Petitioner Laura Lewis for negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, and breach of contract.  In 2003, Petitioner, acting through a leasing agent, entered into a commercial lease whereby Respondent would lease from Petitioner property located in Beaufort County.  Although Petitioner represented in the lease that the property could lawfully be used for a building and construction office, the property was zoned "rural," meaning virtually all commercial uses were prohibited. Respondent occupied the property and made numerous alterations to it. A few months later, a Beaufort County zoning official served Respondent with notice and warning of two violations for Respondent's failure to obtain a certificate of zoning compliance before occupying the premises and its failure to obtain a sign permit before erecting a sign.  Respondent vacated the property, relocated its business, and ceased making rental payments. Respondent then instituted this action. Petitioner denied the allegations and made a counterclaim for breach of contract.  The master in equity entered judgment in favor of Respondent. The Court of Appeals affirmed, finding the master properly granted judgment in favor of Respondent. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that Petitioner did not appeal all grounds on which the master's judgment was based.  Namely, she did not challenge the determination that Respondent was entitled to recover based on unjust enrichment.  Accordingly, the Court affirmed the master-in-equity's and appellate court's decisions in favor of Respondent.

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The Supreme Court accepted the certified question from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina on whether the South Carolina Solid Waste Policy and Management Act, (SWPMA) preempted Horry County Ordinance 02-09 entitled "An Ordinance Regulating the County-Wide Collection and Disposal of Solid Waste Generated within Horry County and for the Prohibition of the Disposal of Solid Waste Materials in any Manner Except as Set Forth Herein; and Providing Penalties for Violation Thereof."  Plaintiffs Sandlands C&D, LLC (Sandlands) and Express Disposal Service, LLC (EDS) are related, privately-owned South Carolina companies.  Sandlands owned and operated a landfill in Marion County, approximately two miles across the Horry County border, and EDS hauls waste originating in South Carolina and North Carolina to Sandlands' landfill.  DHEC granted Sandlands a permit to accept construction and demolition (C & D) waste at the Marion County site.  Prior to the passage of Horry County Ordinance 02-09, Sandlands received C & D waste originating in Horry County and hauled by EDS, accounting for a large portion of the waste processed at its landfill. Upon review of the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court responded in the negative: the county ordinance was not preempted by the SWPMA.