Charleston County files lawsuit against Folly Beach over reopening beaches

Updated: May. 8, 2020 at 9:20 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County has filed a lawsuit against Folly Beach over reopening public access to its beaches and overnight lodging restrictions.

The lawsuit was filed on Friday, and the county contends Folly Beach’s restrictions conflict with Gov. Henry McMaster’s Executive Orders lifting beach restrictions.

On April 20, the governor cancelled an executive order which closed access to beaches, and gave local leaders the decision to reopen their beaches.

“Today, Charleston County Government has filed a lawsuit against the City of Folly Beach regarding the current travel restrictions in place," the county said in a statement Friday afternoon. "However, the City of Folly Beach has scheduled an Emergency Council meeting on Monday, May 11. The County will not serve the lawsuit to give the City the opportunity to rescind its travel restrictions.”

Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin is calling the situation disappointing.

He said he has been working with county council to come up with a plan.

“We’re having a meeting on Monday about doing away with the checkpoints, and that kind of stuff,” Goodwin said. “The understanding was if we work together on this [with county council] and I get the proposal, we can probably put the lawsuit off. It won’t go through until after the meeting.”

The mayor said he sent the proposal to Charleston County Council Chairman Elliot Summey early Friday. Goodwin said that the last time he spoke to Summey, the chairman could not guarantee that some of his council members wouldn’t share the information.

He was informed about the lawsuit after news broke about it.

“It’s the same thing they did to Isle of Palms, they waited until right before the meeting and sent them a threatening letter,” Goodwin said. “IOP already had a meeting scheduled to do away with checkpoints and talk about short term rentals. This is not a good precedent to set.”

According to the suit, Charleston County said even if Folly Beach’s restrictions are not in conflict with the governor’s executive order, the county contends that the emergency provisions Folly Beach has enacted are in conflict with the South Carolina Constitution and unlawfully imposing restrictions on non-city residents.

In addition, the county said Folly Road and Center Street, among other streets in Folly Beach, are state roads in the State Highway System and fall under the state’s control.

Currently, checkpoint hours for non-residents on Folly are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. New check-ins to short term rentals and other overnight accommodations are expected to begin on May 12.

On Tuesday, the county threatened Folly Beach with legal action if the city did not reopen its beach access as well as lift a ban on short term rentals.

Charleston County Chairman Elliott Summey sent a letter to Mayor Tim Goodwin urging the city to rescind orders that places restrictions on non-city residents for beach and park access, and overnight lodging.

According to Summey, he spoke to Goodwin on Monday to raise his concerns on Folly’s restrictions.

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