A private landowner donated their property to Folly Beach on Tuesday, but the land won't be used as a public park or green space — it's underwater.
And the parcel, legally designated as 501 W. Atlantic Ave., has been so ravaged by erosion that it's named for a street that no longer exists.
This isn't the first time that an eroded property that was once beachfront has been given to the town. It's happened several times over the years, and when Folly began its beach renourishment in the early '90s, the town had to buy, lease or otherwise gain rights to access dozens of parcels.
"Generally speaking, if they're on the beach and they're at all threatened or underwater, we accept them with open arms," City Administrator Spencer Wetmore said. "We love it, we appreciate this family donating it."
An attorney for the family donating the parcel could not be reached after multiple phone calls. Folly Beach landowners with underwater parcels still may own them legally, but they're classified as undevelopable and hardly taxed at all, only a little more than $2 a year.
Like most beach communities in South Carolina, Folly struggles with beach erosion. The problem is exacerbated, however, by the jetties that keep the Charleston Harbor's shipping channel open, disrupting a southward flow of sand that otherwise might reach Folly's shore.
Hurricanes and serious storms can also pack a blow.
LaJuan Kennedy, a local real estate agent and the chair of Folly's Planning Commission, said the storm of 1939 wiped about five houses off the front of the beach, the whole of Atlantic Avenue, at that time. The island was less developed then, and the only paved road was Center Street.
While the land at 501 West Atlantic isn't buildable, there are some lots on Folly that are firmly in the dunes, sometimes washed over between renourishment projects, but still available for development.
Because of its unique erosion situation, Folly is exempt from the state regulations that might normally restrict that kind of beachfront building. In all, there are 35 of these "super beachfront" lots — lots that do not have street access but are landward of the line where Folly stops renourishment projects.
Already, seven lots have been donated to the town, and 14 have existing homes, Wetmore said.
The lots can be controversial. Most recently, the septic tanks there have popped up as a feature the city may regulate when it eventually lifts its waterfront building moratorium.
Building there may be restricted by the town itself as Folly crafts a dune management area along the beach while the moratorium is in place. But that plan is sure to be a hot topic when it's finally presented to the public.
"We’ve got property rights and the rights of the public," Kennedy said. "Where does one begin and the other end? It’s not going to be an easy thing."