The town of James Island has given notice that it will try to acquire McLeod Plantation through eminent domain, even though the historic site is located within the city of Charleston.
The Historic Charleston Foundation, which owns the site, is consulting with its attorneys about the next step, marketing and public programs director Leigh Handal said Wednesday. She and a foundation attorney declined to comment further.
James Island Town Council voted last week to try to buy McLeod but didn't discuss using its powers of condemnation to do so, said Town Councilman Joe Qualey, who has opposed the move.
"I have questioned all along our ability to purchase it and preserve it," he said.
The foundation has sought proposals from buyers, and those are due May 14.
It has said it would like to sell the property to someone or some group with a proven preservation track record that ideally would open the site to the public. The historic site recently hosted a large Boy Scout campout.
The 38-acre property at Folly Road and Maybank Highway includes a main house built in 1853, a row of slave cottages and other outbuildings.
James Island Mayor Mary Clark has said island residents have been dismayed by the plantation's condition, particularly as attempts to sell it to the American College of the Building Arts and the College of Charleston have fallen through.
"We've been negotiating for quite a while, since September 17," Clark said Wednesday. "I wish I could tell you my enthusiasm ... (but) they tell me I can't discuss this because it's under litigation. This needs to be preserved, and that's what we're doing."
The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission also is interested in making an offer on McLeod.
The property has been appraised at about $4 million.
Eminent domain, also known as condemnation, is the government's power to take private property for a use that benefits the public. Typically, the owner is paid the fair market value.
There have been court fights over its use, and disputes over compensation are common.
A recent, local example of eminent domain would be Mount Pleasant's decision in January to condemn a pharmacy and a bank because the properties were needed for the town's planned U.S. Highway 17 overpass, connecting Interstate 526 and Hungryneck Boulevard.