Youth baseball league, facing steep property taxes, rallying to stay in the game

BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Sign-ups for another season of Crowfield Little League Baseball are already underway.

The Berkeley County Little League affiliate, which has up to 20 teams and hundreds of youth athletes, has been in the county for 25 years.

Since 1994, teams have been playing at the Steve Vaughn Sports Complex, on College Park Road in Ladson.  League co-president Justin McCauley fears that may not last much longer.

"It's been an ongoing battle," he said.

"The taxes have fluctuated over the years.  They've gone anywhere from three thousand to six thousand."

Crowfield Little League currently leases the College Park Road property, month to month, through a private owner.

As part of that agreement, the league agreed to pay property taxes on the ball field.  McCauley says their bill grew from hundreds of dollars annually, to thousands, after county officials re-zoned the property from agricultural to commercial.

"The baseball fields have been here since 1994," he said.

"Why they re-zoned it, we have no understanding of why they did it."

Wednesday, Berkeley County assessor Wilson Baggett said, "we can't ignore the obvious."

Baggett referenced SC Code of Laws 12-43-230, which says in part:

"...the words "agricultural real property" shall mean any tract of real property which is used to raise, harvest or store crops, feed, breed or manage livestock, or to produce plants, trees, fowl or animals useful to man, including the preparation of the products raised thereon for man's use and disposed of by marketing or other means."

Baggett added the 14-acre property is worth $35,000/acre, but due to issues with the shape of the land and power lines, its owner is taxed based on a $20,000/acre annual value.

Still, league co-president Justin McCauley, also a former Crowfield player, says his teams are facing their last pitch.

"Honestly, unless there was another person that came up and said yeah, we would be willing to donate this land, there would be nowhere else to go."

Registration for the league is $75 per player.

McCauley says the group thrives on donations, and have been falling behind on field repairs while trying to pay the county's property tax.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "The conditions are not unplayable, but they're not in the best of conditions."

"We have one field with lights out of five."

Berkeley County council member Tommy Newell asked that the issue be included on Monday's meeting agenda.

He says council is still gathering facts, but is willing to look into how the field is zoned.

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