Property owners may lose land to county for public use

JOHNS ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - Some residents in rural parts of Charleston County may lose their privately owned roads to the county. The roads are called "County Non-Standard Roads," and Charleston County tax dollars have paid for their upkeep for nearly 50 years.

Now residents have to decide whether to keep the roads private or turn them over to the county if they want continued maintenance.

Historically, residents call the rural roads a "community road," and those who live in homes along the roads say their families have owned the property for years and want to keep it that way.

"It's something that my parents worked hard to get. They purchased that land with 11 children, we will have something to always remember them," Essie Brisbon said.

Residents say there are problems with the unpaved roads with dust, drainage and pot holes. The county pays for the regular repair and maintenance of the roads at the cost of $1,000 to $15,000 a year per road, and there are nearly 300 similar roads county-wide.

Now council members have voted that in order for the Public Works Department to continue upkeep on the roads, they must become public with public right of way.

"All we can do is blade the road and put some dirt in a hole, rather than fixing the underlying problems. If we fix the underlying problems, we can address the long term maintenance at a much less cost," Public Works Department Director Jim Neal said.

County leaders met with property owners to talk about the change, which includes possibly paving some of the roads. Some residents want the continued maintenance, even if it means giving up their property to the county.

"People in the community agree that we need to get something other than just having a bunch of dust and mud when it rains. Cars and vehicles get messed up in the mud also," William R. Jones said.

Council member Anna Johnson represents many residents who live along non-standard roads and says the safety and the costs to maintain a dirt road were problems that needed to be changed.

If neighbors decide they want to keep their particular road private, county council can approve their removal from the county maintenance system, but those residents would then have to pay for their own upkeep.

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