Families settle farm road suit

In December, siblings Thomas Legare (from left), Linda Legare Berry and Helen Legare-Floyd, and Linda's husband, Ed Berry, discuss the lawsuit that was filed against them regarding this dirt road, which bisects their Johns Island farm and is used by others to access otherwise landlocked property. The Legares and the Hughes family last week settled the suit.

Wade Spees

JOHNS ISLAND — A farming family and its neighbor on this rural island have decided they can be good neighbors without building good fences.

A legal battle has been settled between the Legare family, which has been farming 300 acres along the Stono River since the 1830s, and the Hughes family.

The Legare farm sits on a peninsula, and the Hugheses must cross the farm’s pasture to reach their 1-acre, waterfront lot on the tip of that peninsula.

The Hugheses had sued the Legares, hoping to force them to better maintain the dirt road, build fences along both sides and corral all their livestock so the animals don’t wander onto the road or their property.

The matter highlighted the clash between agriculture and development on the island. It was headed to court, but the families came to a resolution last week.

The matter drew a barrage of social media attention in the last few weeks, most of it supporting the Legares and their farm. The comments sometimes got nasty, even calling the native South Carolinian Hughes family “Yankees.”

Helen Legare-Floyd, one of the farm’s owners, said of the Hugheses, “I want to be able to pass them on the road and wave at them.”

Billy Hughes said: “I feel good. I hope the Legares feel good.”

The Legares said they didn’t think they were required to provide the things the Hugheses were asking for in the lawsuit.

The cost of providing those requests would have put the farm out of business. The Hugheses said they simply wanted to freely travel down the road, and they didn’t want cows and other animals wandering into their yard.

Hughes said his yard is fenced on three sides, but at low tide, the animals wandered through the marsh and onto his property, where they defecated and ate the shrubbery.

Legare-Floyd said that under the agreement, the Hugheses will make and pay for improvements to the road and install and pay for an electric gate opener at the farm’s entrance.

The Legares will not interfere with the Hugheses’ getting to their property and will do the best they can to keep their livestock off the Hughes property.

The relationship between the two families had become as bumpy as the dirt road that ran down the center of the lawsuit, Legare-Floyd said. But her family members now believe it will heal over time.

The Legares racked up large legal bills dealing with the lawsuit, she said, and a fundraising event is being held for them at the farm next weekend.

Hughes said the problems between the neighbors had become tense. But they simply needed some outside legal help to resolve the issues.

And Hughes thinks the matter is over now. He had put his house up for sale, but he’s taken it off the market, he said.

“I’m staying. Everybody just wants to enjoy their property.”

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491.