The protracted legal battle for the Watson Hill tract annexation has ended with North Charleston firmly established in the plot of land across the Ashley River near the plantation historic district off S.C. Highway 61, city officials announced this morning.
“No further legal challenges remain outstanding and the tract shall remain a part of the city of North Charleston,” the city’s press release said.
North Charleston, property owner MeadWestvaco Corporation and the Coastal Conservation League “all look forward to the property becoming a national example of productive land use accomplished with sensitivity to its natural beauty, environment, and neighbors,” the city said.
In June 2005, City Council voted to annex five vacant parcels located on Highway 61 and 165 in Dorchester County, including the Watson Hill tract. The area covers more than 7,000 acres.
The annexation immediately met legal opposition, and a portion of the case was heard by the South Carolina Supreme Court before the dispute ultimately concluded with the property becoming confirmed territory of the city of North Charleston.
Watson Hill is currently a part of MeadWestvaco’s acclaimed East Edisto master plan.
Mayor Keith Summey said he was happy to see an end to the dispute.
“Although initial concerns over the annexation were ones of land use, I believe that with award winning and publicly recognized projects such as Oak Terrace Preserve, the Montague Avenue revitalization, and various parks and preserves, North Charleston has proven itself during my administration to be a leader in sustainable practices and development,” he said.
In the press statement, Coastal Conservation Director Dana Beach said he is satisfied with the outcome.
“Our driving concern for Watson Hill was the potential for four thousand or more houses on the property. We are confident that the plan proposed by MeadWestvaco, which includes perpetual conservation easements on the majority of the tract, will protect the integrity of the Ashley River historic district. The critical goal has always been land conservation, not jurisdictional control.”