Angel Oak developers win battle

Angel Oak

The developer of a large tract next to the Angel Oak successfully defended the project’s state water-quality permit in court, but opponents vow to continue the fight.

The state’s Administrative Law Court ruled in favor of both Angel Oak Village LLC and the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, which issued the permit.

Judge John McLeod ruled the developer tried to minimize the wetland disruption to 2.23 acres and “has provided the necessary assurances that water quality in Church Creek will not be negatively or adversely impacted.”

Developer Robert DeMoura, who has worked six years on a plan to build homes and shops next to the park, said he was “very excited and happy about the ruling.”

His attorney, Mary Shahid, said McLeod’s ruling recognizes that DeMoura has designed a good project — one that will improve, not worsen, the water quality in the nearby creek.

DeMoura owns about 42 acres but noted 18 of them are now part of the city’s park or are in conservation. He plans to build about 270 multi-family units on the remaining 24 acres.

McLeod also noted DeMoura helped maintain the viability of the Angel Oak, a massive live oak tree in a city of Charleston park. DeMoura recently sold 6 acres to the city to expand that park and help move cars away from the tree’s root system.

The Coastal Conservation League, which brought the lawsuit along with Save the Angel Oak, is asking its lawyers to review the ruling and decide on the next move, said Katie Zimmerman of the league.

“The ruling is extremely disappointing,” she said Thursday. “It fails to apply laws that were specifically designed to protect a unique cultural and historic resource. It fails to apply laws designed to protect water quality.”

Zimmerman said the opponents likely will appeal, calling McLeod’s ruling “just one step.”

But DeMoura said he has worked with the league for six years trying to meet its concerns, and he hopes to be able to proceed soon.

“It would be very disappointing if the Coastal Conservation League continued to persist with actions that the courts have already deemed frivolous,” he added.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.