Johns Island farmer Thomas Legare has announced that he again will run for the Charleston County Council District 8 seat, but he might have to pay a high price for his candidacy.
Some county officials are in the process of reconsidering an application to use rural Greenbelt money to purchase a conservation easement on the 314-acre Legare Farms property on Johns Island, which Legare owns with his two sisters.
County Council shot down that plan with a 5-4 vote in November. But Council Vice Chairman Elliott Summey, who voted with the majority against the plan, later said he might reconsider his vote if the price tag came in at less than the $900,000 originally requested. If Summey changed his vote, the easement likely would be approved.
Under a conservation easement, the property owner agrees to place restrictions on the land so it never can be developed. In most cases, that drives down the price for which the owner could sell the property.
But Summey said his stance on the matter may have changed after Legare announced Sunday that he would run for Council’s District 8 seat in November against Anna Johnson, who currently holds the seat. Johnson defeated Legare for that seat in 2010.
“I’m contemplating what I’m going to do,” Summey said. “He’s throwing salt in Anna’s eye,” Summey said of Legare.
Summey said that if he cast the deciding vote to purchase the Legare Farms easement, it would be harder for him to work with Johnson, who also opposed the purchase. “And I have to work with her. Life is about relationships.”
Legare said he thinks the Greenbelt application for Legare Farms, which is being sponsored by the Lowcountry Open Land Trust, should stand on its own merit, free from politics.
Money for Greenbelt projects comes from the county’s half-cent sales tax.
Legare also said Summey’s threat won’t stop him from entering the District 8 race. “Oh I’m running,” he said. “I won’t back down from a threat. I’m running come hell or high water.”
Elizabeth Hagood, the Lowcountry Open Land Trust’s executive director, said the group’s board will meet Monday, and it will decide then whether or how it should proceed with the Legare Farms application. “We need to discuss whether his decision (to run for council) has changed any factors in the application,” she said.
Hagood said she and other trust leaders sponsored the project and filed the application because they think Legare Farms is a property that needs to be preserved, and that it fits perfectly with the preservation goals of the Greenbelt program.
Conservationists have said that the farm on the Stono River on the southern end of the island is a quintessential Johns Island property that is vulnerable to development.
But four of council’s nine members have grown concerned in recent years about the county purchasing easements on private land that doesn’t offer access to the public. The four are Johnson, Teddie Pryor, Henry Darby and Vic Rawl.
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.
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