Thomas Legare didn’t do the most politic thing when he announced his intention to run for Charleston County Council prior to council’s reconsidering the purchase of a conservation easement on his Johns Island farm. But really, it shouldn’t make any difference in what council decides. Politics shouldn’t enter into the matter.
The Legare Farm easement has value because it would save an important tract of farmland from being developed and contributing further to suburban sprawl on a sea island that is seeing more than its share. Previously, the easement purchase, at $900,000, was supported by the Greenbelt Bank Board because of its value to the preservation of farmland and its contribution to the conservation of Johns Island.
But a council majority rejected the recommendation. A revised proposal would lower the cost to the Greenbelt Bank, to $800,000, and the remainder would be provided by a conservation donor, probably the Lowcountry Open Land Trust, which has strongly supported the proposal.
Mr. Legare has long been an outspoken opponent to the development of Johns Island. And he is opposed to the council-supported plan to extend I-526 across the island. Apparently, his stance on the highway hasn’t affected the prospects of putting an easement on the 318-tract owned by Mr. Legare and his family.
Indeed, if I-526 is built, the conservation easement would probably have added value to the public, since the highway would encourage development.
Mr. Legare ran in 2010 against Anna Johnson, who defeated him decisively. Mrs. Johnson voted with three other council members to reject the easement purchase because there was insufficient public access to the property.
But Councilman Elliott Summey, who voted with the majority because he thought the price was too high, was evidently willing to reconsider. On Thursday, he was expressing second thoughts. Mr. Summey should recognize that this issue should be about the preservation of a farm that is already used for a variety of public purposes — school group tours, a pumpkin patch, mud runs and battle reenactments. Mr. Legare’s political activities shouldn’t enter into the discussion.
Council should endorse the purchase of this easement, and preserve this valuable tract of farmland from development in perpetuity.