Undaunted by a preliminary court decision in favor of Wal-Mart, a group in Florence, South Carolina, called Citizens for Responsible Economic Development (RED) is appealing a circuit court decision that allows a Wal-Mart SuperCenter on Beltline Boulevard to proceed. The citizen’s appeal has been filed with the state Court of Appeals in Columbia. The Florence County attorney told the Morning News, “I feel we have acted legally in this matter.” Newsflash reported in September that RED had filed a lawsuit in the 12th Circuit Court charging that the county planning Commission failed to follow state and local planning laws when it voted to approve plans for the building of the SuperCenter. RED charged that the planning commission did not give proper notice of a rezoning hearing and that zoning signage was not specific and was not placed so that abutting residents were properly notified of the zoning case. This is a project being proposed by the Trinity Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which is selling a 49 acre parcel of land, and moving its church to another location, cashing in on its land value at the expense of its neighbors. Not exactly an evangelical thing to do to your neighbors. The project represents the triumph of money over morals. “Our hope in filing this appeal is to set a precedent in South Carolina for future growth. Schools and existing neighborhoods need to be protected from mass development that diminishes the rights to quality of life,” RED’s co-chairwoman Peggy Brown told the Morning News. RED is basing its case on the state’s Comprehensive Planning and Enabling Act of 1994, which requires that local planners consider the total impact of zoning and future development on the community.” “This battle is far from over. Ultimately it is the community that suffers the effects of unplanned sprawl in traffic congestion, storm water pollution to watersheds, loss of habitat and green space,” RED
chairwoman Carolyn Jebaily said. RED has also complained that the store’s location near a high school is a terrible land use precedent. RED has also filed a second lawsuit charging that the proposed superstore would push storm water pollution into nearby Jeffries Creek. RED said their appeal will block the store’s construction until resolved.
It is always refreshing to see a citizen’s group willing to use their First Amendment right to appeal a land use case through the courts. This has been a strategy employed for years by deep-pocketed developers, who use litigation as a sword over the heads of local officials. More and more communities are using their legal rights to delay or stop a project in its tracks. A legal appeal can tie up a project for a year or longer, depending on the court backlog. During the delay, land deals can come undone. For earlier stories on this community, search the Newsflash database by “Florence.”