Friday, November 22, 2013
More than two dozen residents of the King’s Grant subdivision attended a public hearing at the Dorchester County Council meeting Monday night to oppose the potential sale of county property in the neighborhood.
During the hearing, nine people (mostly from the community’s homeowners association) spoke regarding the site of the former King’s Grant Wastewater Treatment Plant. The council has been negotiating a contract for the sale of the property with Larry and Tammy Curtis for $195,000 since its Oct. 25 special called meeting.
Councilman Larry Hargett has lived in the King’s Grant subdivision for 32 years and abstained in the Oct. 25 vote.
He did vote in favor of postponing approving the proposed contract until the Dec. 2 council meeting with the rest of council; Monday’s vote was unanimous.
The vote came after listening to multiple public comments from residents of King’s Grant and the buyers’ realtor.
The public hearing was unusual, not because the King’s Grant residents didn’t want the county to sell the property, but rather because they wanted the county to accept their lower bid on the property rather than the Curtis’.
“King’s Grant is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Summerville and we’re concerned about keeping it stable. We want to appeal to young families and we could use that lot for other benefits,” said Danny Perry, the HOA treasurer.
The 1.2 acre property neighbors the HOA’s recreation area that includes a playground, marina, walking trails and ball fields. If they acquired the land, the HOA said they would continue to expand on these community amenities, such as adding boat storage, marina parking and more play areas for children.
“Coming from a mother of five kids, I’ve waited a long time for these amenities to come back,” said Kimberly Thompson of Lancer Drive. “It’s not fair to the children of this neighborhood, and there are hundreds. We don’t want a house in the middle of it. It’s not fair to us and our children.”
If they win the contract, the Curtis family plans to build a home on the property.
“It’s not always about money,” urged Perry. “If you bring the price down so we can buy it, you’d be making 500 homeowners happy or one set of homeowners very unhappy.”
Dick Kopfmueller, an at-large HOA board member, echoed the same idea: “If you can consider the lesser sale you’d be doing this for 1,000 constituents.”
Bambi Magraw, a Keller Williams Realtor with Charleston Dwelling, also spoke at the hearing, representing her clients, the potential buyers.
“The buyers are going through their due diligence,” she said. “They have no intention of doing anything but improving the property.”
The variety of testimony clearly gave councilmembers pause.
“Your presence here tonight has given me second thoughts,” said Councilman George Bailey. “That tells me when the people speak maybe we should just listen.”
Council Chairman Bill Hearn agreed to also reconsider the impending vote.
“I’m guilty, I haven’t walked the land. … It’s eye-opening to hear your plans for the property versus the perception that it was just sitting there with no way moving forward,” he said.
Councilmen David Chinnis and Jay Byars disagreed though.
“My obligation is to my 22,000 other constituents, I have to ask them for permission first,” Councilman Chinnis said. He noted accepting the HOA’s bid would be a loss for taxpayers, who would benefit from the proceeds of the sale.
Councilman Byars continued: “If we open that Pandora’s box and give you that heavily discounted rate, the question is how do we close it? I don’t know.”
Regardless of the conversation, Councilman Hargett admitted he “[is] not in favor of this contract and will vote against it.”
Clearly representing a variety of opinions, the council unanimously voted to postpone approving the proposed contract and will bring the matter up again at its Dec. 2 meeting.
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