Some residents of the small Harbor View Circle neighborhood on James Island are upset about Charleston Water System's plan to buy all the homes in order to expand the Plum Island sewage treatment plant.
A small group of homeowners took their concerns to James Island Mayor Bill Woolsey on Friday, but he told them there's nothing the town can do to stop the property sales.
“They have every right to buy property from willing sellers,” he said.
For some, the concern is that the utility is offering prices they consider too low. For others, the concern is that their neighborhood is going to disappear, but they don't want to move.
“I never intend to sell that property, to them or anyone else,” said Mark Allen, whose Harbor View Circle home sits on the marsh, looking across the water at Charleston. “I inherited that property and plan to give it to my children.”
In March the Charleston Water System sent letters to all of the homeowners in the neighborhood, which has slightly more than 20 homes. The CWS was offering $10,000 if homeowners would agree to sell their property to the water and sewer utility at any time the homeowners' pick during the next 20 years, for fair market value.
“I would take it,” water system CEO Kin Hill said. “If someone knocked on my door and said they'd buy my house any time in the next 20 years, for appraised value, with no commissions, and here's a check.”
The water system had already purchased some Harbor View Circle properties, paying $2.1 million in December for three marsh-front homes. Those purchases ended a lawsuit that delayed CWS' plan to run a 48-inch sewage pipe across the marsh on pilings, as part of a $186 million plan to replace the area's sewage tunnels.
The idea of buying all the properties on Harbor View Circle was first proposed in a 2007 CWS engineering study, but the homeowners first learned about it just last month.
Their neighborhood connects to the Plum Island treatment plan via a causeway, and trucks have to pass through the neighborhood to get to the plant.
While some residents are upset at the idea that their neighborhood seems destined to become part of a sewage treatment facility, others would be willing to sell but think the water system is offering too little.
“The prices are too low,” said Marsha Farrior, whose home has had a “for sale by owner” sign in the yard for several years. “They are just trying to bully us.”
She said the water system had an appraisal done and offered $100,000 less than she and her husband, John, paid for the house in 2006. The utility offered to pay for another appraisal, conducted by a certified appraiser of the Farriors' choosing, and accept whichever price was higher.
“There is no obligation on behalf of the property owner to sell his or her property to CWS, now or in the future,” said Hill. “It is strictly an accommodation to the property owners of Harbor View Circle, if they so choose to sell their property to CWS.”
Charleston Water System says in about 20 years they expect to run out of capacity at the Plum Island treatment plant. The plant serves a large swath of the greater Charleston area, handling sewage from Hollywood to Daniel Island and everything in between.
Homeowner Lee Morris said he finds it strange that CWS didn't buy homes that were recently for sale on the open market. Morris just bought his home on Harbor View Circle six months ago.
“I came back from being out of the country and saw the article (about CWS' plan) and said 'oh, my gosh.' ” Morris said.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.