Mount Pleasant — The identity of the person or people who sued Town Council to overturn its approval of the 110-acre Central Mount Pleasant development would remain secret under a proposed agreement between the town and the mysterious plaintiff.
Save Hungry Neck Corridor LLC, a limited liability corporation, is the name used by the plaintiff in court documents. Whoever is behind the lawsuit does not have to be revealed in LLC incorporation papers filed with the Secretary of State. Only the name of the LLC attorney, Charleston lawyer Jonathan Yates,
is listed. The lawyer has not responded to repeated e-mails and phone calls seeking comment about who is behind the suit.
Save Hungry Neck Corridor LLC approached the town with a settlement offer after the town filed legal papers to discover in court depositions the true identity of who was behind the suit. In the proposed settlement, the LLC and the town will drop their legal proceedings, pay their own legal fees and the LLC gets to remain anonymous. So far, the town has spent about $5,000 on legal fees.
"At this point, it's better to save the taxpayers' money and let the cowards go back into their hole," Town Councilman Joe Bustos said.
However, the town will not agree to a settlement unless the Central Mount Pleasant developer also is released from the LLC suit, said Town Attorney Allen Young. "We think it's in everyone's best interest to end this lawsuit. In a sense, we feel that it's a victory."
Meanwhile, council will send a letter to the Charleston County legislative delegation asking it to consider a bill to change the law governing disclosure for limited liability corporations.
State Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, said he thinks it is reasonable for the town to want to know the identity of the people behind the suit. He suggested testing the legislative waters with a bill that would require disclosure of LLC members with a 5 percent or greater interest when the LLC sues a public body. "I think it should be looked at," Campsen said.
State Rep. Ben Hagood, R-Sullivan's Island, said he understands Town Council's frustration over being sued by a faceless limited liability corporation. He noted that the town has the option of compelling a limited liability corporation to reveal those who have an interest in it through the legal discovery process. "I don't want to draft broad legislation that has a lot of consequences for the business community. The ripple effect would be enormous," Hagood said.
Central Mount Pleasant is a proposed 110-acre residential, commercial and retail project between Hungry Neck Boulevard and Rifle Range Road. The plaintiffs' July 9 lawsuit said McAlister Development revised its application to Town Council after it was rejected by the Planning Commission, and the Commission should have had a chance to consider the new application. Town Council approved Central Mount Pleasant on May 17 in a 5-2 vote.
In a related development, the Charleston County School District on Tuesday withdrew its application for Town Council approval of rezoning for the property where Whitesides Elementary School is on Rifle Range Road. The sudden withdrawal happened hours before Council was scheduled to vote on the application.
If the rezoning had been approved, the Central Mount Pleasant developer would have acquired the 10-acre Whitesides land from the school district in exchange for the district acquiring 10 acres of the developer's land for a new Whitesides school near the town's main wastewater treatment plant.
School Board Chairwoman Nancy Cook said she contacted Superintendent Nancy McGinley when she read about the pending deal in Tuesday's Post and Courier. Cook said the proposal needs to go back to the school board for further consideration.
Mark Fava, attorney for the developer, said the developer can continue to negotiate the land swap with the school board, if the board agrees. The swap can happen without the requested rezoning at the Whitesides site, he said.
Withdrawal of the Whitesides rezoning application means it cannot be brought back to council for at least a year. A district official said the application was withdrawn because of opposition from Whitesides neighbors who worried that the higher density sought by developers would devalue their property. Putting the new school next to the wastewater treatment plant would have required special precautions because of the possible though unlikely accidental release of chlorine gas. The district has other options for the new school that it will discuss with the school board.