So Charleston County is not going to pay off folks whose property loses value because of Interstate 526.
Yeah, nobody saw that one coming.
Earlier this week, County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor said people who thought they would get checks just because they live next door to the highway had, well, misinterpreted things.
Pryor told The Post and Courier, “We’re not going to put money in anybody’s pocket.”
Tell that to Anna Johnson, the council member who cast the deciding vote on the controversial highway project last December. She only voted for it because the council adopted her amendment to put forth a “good faith” effort to compensate people hurt by 526.
Several council members say cash payoffs were exactly what the amendment called for, but they knew that idea wasn’t going anywhere.
Too bad some people fell for it.
The idea of compensating folks for lost property value was a bad one from the start.
It’s a horrible precedent, one that could cost taxpayers millions — not just on 526, but every other future road project. Someone is affected by every new road, and they all would want the same deal.
If council had done this, they’d have legal standing.
Most County Council members knew that — but hey, they needed five votes.
Frankly, some council members say Johnson was duped. But Johnson isn’t talking.
Pryor says the council’s intention was to pay for buffers and sound barriers, something that is not at all unreasonable. Even if some council members did intend to cut people checks, there’s no guarantee that would happen.
“If it’s proposed that the taxpayers of Charleston County pay, I’m going to vote against that,” says Councilman Dickie Schweers. “I feel for those folks, but I didn’t support the highway being built.”
The Coastal Conservation League, which has opposed the 526 completion, says this is a problem for the county.
“The fact remains that was a condition of approval,” says Jake Libaire, a land use project manager at the league. “This just can’t be dismissed, as some people on council would like it to be.”
Libaire says residents need to hold the county to its word, and predicts some are already considering legal action.
So here we go again.
This whole thing is going to come down to semantics.
The county staff apparently has looked for legal precedence to pay for lost property value, as promised.
Of course, that should have been done before council voted.
That’s the lesson here — if something sounds too good to be true, check it out.
Unfortunately for Nix 526, this doesn’t put the highway in jeopardy. Even those opposed to the road say this little misunderstanding won’t give them impetus to reconsider the vote to finish 526.
Besides, only someone on the prevailing side could bring it back up — meaning Johnson. And, again, she’s not talking.
Bottom line, the county can honestly say it hasn’t reneged; it promised nothing other than a “good faith” effort.
The only ruse was the “good faith” part.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org