Ten Mile community sues Charleston County, claims violation of historic ordinance

Published: Jul. 14, 2023 at 4:55 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 14, 2023 at 7:17 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - A historic African American community in the Lowcountry is suing the Charleston County Planning Commission after approving plans to build a subdivision on the land.

The Ten Mile neighborhood, located between Highway 17 and Copahee Sound, was designated as a Historic District in 2022.

“Ten Mile is a historic district that we can trace this area back to the 1800s with the Beehive Plantation,” Ten Mile Neighborhood Association Member, Carla Pickney, says. “There’s a lot of history that’s been developed throughout the centuries in this area, and we want to preserve that for the future as well.”

In 2018, Charleston County adopted a Historic Preservation Ordinance designed to protect historic African American settlement communities like Ten Mile.

The ordinance was created to ensure that future developments are compatible with the historic and cultural resources in the county. It requires any development in those communities to be certified as historically appropriate.

The lawsuit claims the county’s planning commission approved the development while the certification was still pending.

Crescent Homes, the development, is planning to build 21 elevated homes on less than six acres of land off of Seafood Road with members of the Ten Mile community primarily concerned about road safety, flooding and historical preservation.

“For us what’s really important and our focus is, there’s been an increase in subdivisions, and we want to make sure everyone stays safe within the community,” Pickney says. “We’ve experienced an increase in vehicular accidents, pedestrian deaths and vehicular fatalities.

“What’s really important to us is making sure that people stay safe, both now and in the future.”

Inside the lawsuit it is also stated that members of the Ten Mile Community will be directly and immediately impacted by the development with irreparable damage to the integrity of the historic district.

Some examples of damage listed include decreased enjoyment of the area and activities, increased stormwater contamination and pollution of the development to wetlands, increased flooding and public health hazards.

“We are proud to stand with the Ten Mile Community to try to protect its historic character,” Ben Cunningham, South Carolina Environmental Law Project Senior Managing Attorney, says. “We have and will continue to defend against the potential erosion of environmental and cultural protections for all historic communities in our area.”

Inside of the historic land, Seafood Road is the only access road for the subdivision development, which concerns Ten Mile Community members who say the road already creates problems.

“One of our concerns is that this road floods on a weekly basis because of the rise of Kings Tides and global warming, so you see increased flooding on a regular basis,” Pickney adds. “This road is impassable, and that’s one of the major safety concerns that were concerned about.”

Other than infrastructure concerns, Pickney also adds that the Gullah Geechee heritage is very important to the community.

“We want to make sure that we continue to preserve that heritage; not just current residents, but also people who move in and future residents in this area are also aware of the history and the wealth of information and knowledge that’s in this area,” she says.

The Charleston County Historic Preservation Commission is meeting on Wednesday at 2 p.m. and is expected to address the historic concerns.

The Charleston County Planning Commission has not yet responded to a request for comment.