A James Island dock perched along Parrot Creek has been involved in three separate court rulings spanning almost 20 years, and now the state might have to spend more than $85,000 to remove it.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control could be required to remove Brent Patterson's dock, reimburse him $46,936 for the cost of building it and give him $9,363.90 for his attorney fees.
The agency also might have to pay $29,226.19 for the attorneys fees of his neighbor, Richard Hook.
The reason: Administrative Law Judge S. Phillip Lenski ruled the state should not have granted Patterson a permit to build the dock because its construction violated a 2005 legal deal.
Mucking up the issue further is that the 2005 deal between Hook and the developer violated a 2003 court settlement between the developer and neighbors.
DHEC has filed a motion asking Lenski to reconsider his ruling, according to DHEC spokeswoman Laura Renwick. She declined further comment except to say the "court-issued removal of a dock isn't a common occurrence."
Patterson, in a written statement, said removal of the dock would be a "senseless act" at taxpayer expense "all because the developer of Belle Terre, in a million dollar real estate deal, had the pull to secretly concoct a reversal to a previously settled agreement without any public notice or notice to any of the participants in the original legal action."
Patterson said a new, longer dock would harm the same marshland that the James Island Public Service District and the residents in and around Lighthouse Point and Parrot Creek wanted to preserve.
"Removing and replacing this dock will do the exact same damage to the marsh that these people fought to prevent," Patterson said. "The people involved in the original action should be very upset by this considering all the time and money spent fighting this was basically washed away by that million-dollar deal."
Attorney Mary Shahid, who represents Hook, said she spoke to her client and declined to comment because the case is still pending.
The developer, Ford Development Corp., received approval for a dock master plan for the Belle Terre development in March 2002. Four months later, the developer applied for a permit for 27 docks.
A month later, Hook spent $1 million to buy the lot next to what would become Patterson's lot. Hook told the judge the developer assured him that any dock development on his neighbor's land would not impact his view. DHEC approved the permit for 27 docks, including a dock on Patterson's property that would obstruct the view from Hook's land.
Neighbors then brought a lawsuit against the developer in 2003, and a judge ultimately ruled in favor of permitting the 27 docks as arranged.
In August 2004, Ford asked DHEC to amend the dock placement on Patterson's parcel but was denied.
The next year, Ford challenged DHEC's denial in court, and the court issued a consent order that changed the dock's location from one that obstructed Hook's view, to a longer dock that extended further over the marshland.
When Patterson purchased the property and later applied for a dock permit, the paperwork on file at DHEC did not reflect the court-approved change that permitted only a longer dock that did not obstruct Hook's view.
So a shorter dock was built.
When Hook revisited the site in early 2017, he could see Patterson's dock. In October, Hook asked the court to uphold the court-approved changes from 2005.
Earlier this month, Lemski ruled to maintain that court-approved dock location.