MOUNT PLEASANT — More than a year after Town Council inadvertently started a racially tinged dispute between two nonprofit groups, the fate of a small property the town bought for $193,500, and then gave away, has been resolved.
The overgrown and undeveloped half-acre sits on Mathis Ferry Road at 5th Avenue, and all parties involved agree it should become a small park. But it won't be a park honoring a white businessman who died in 2016, as the Town Council and East Cooper Land Trust had intended last year.
Instead, the land will be used to honor John Scanlon, a freedman who bought the former Remley Plantation in the 19th century and sold subdivided properties to freed slaves, creating Scanlonville.
"We hope that the property will be a tribute to Mr. Scanlon," said Ed Lee, president of the East Cooper Civic Club, the community association.
The small triangle of land is already home to an historic marker explaining the community's founding in 1868. Many residents today are descended from the formerly enslaved people who bought land there.
"This is very important to us," Lee said Friday, as the East Cooper Land Trust signed over the deed for the property to the civic club.
Members of both nonprofit groups gathered in a small cinderblock building at Remley's Point Community Playground for the transferring of the deed, and both groups appeared glad to put an end to the acrimony.
"I'm just so pleased today to be able to give the property over to the East Cooper Civic Club," said land trust Executive Director Catherine Main.
The saga began in March 2017, when Town Council agreed to donate the taxpayer-owned land to the East Cooper Land Trust for a park that would be named after the late Kenny Seamon, a well-known architect who co-founded the architecture and engineering firm SeamonWhiteside and was a member of the land trust's board.
When Main and others with the land trust presented the plan for a public park to Scanlonville residents and the East Cooper Civic Club last year, they were surprised by the hostile reception.
“At first, they yelled at us for two hours," Main said in a June interview.
When plans for the land became a source of controversy, the idea of creating "Kenny Park" there was quickly scrapped. Plans to honor Seamon were shifted to focus on a multi-use bike and pedestrian path near Oakland Shopping Center on U.S. Highway 17, called "The Kenny Mile."
The land trust considered just giving the Scanlonville property back to Mount Pleasant, but the town wasn't interested, Main has said.
The solution reached after 17 months was this: The East Cooper Land Trust gave the property to the East Cooper Civic Club with deed restrictions to prevent any commercial or residential use of the land, and a requirement that it remain a public park. There was no cost to the civic club — that had been a sticking point — because donors to the land trust covered the annual cost of monitoring the deed restrictions.