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Stables Park: Neighbor wants out before courts move in

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

When Nancy Blackwell, 75, first saw the property on Ford Road where she has made her home for the last 13 years, it was love at first sight.

She had lived in the Pittsburgh area, but after a car accident left her disabled and suffering from severe arthritis and joint damage, her doctors told her she needed to move south. She picked Litchfield and it seemed like kismet that led her to the little piece of it that became hers.

A friend was in a bar and he told someone about her search for a piece of land where she could put a modular home for the disabled that she ordered custom built. A few minutes later, her phone started ringing. People were eager to have her look at their properties.

The lot on Ford Road was quiet and wooded, and suited her perfectly. It took all of 15 minutes for her to agree to buy it. She has since spent a lot of happy years there, but now her health requires another move — something that’s proving more difficult than she ever expected since she needs to sell her property first.

The county park under development just on the other side of her back fence is largely to blame for her troubles as far as she’s concerned, and she wants Georgetown County officials to do something about it.

Blackwell, a former employee of Wang Laboratories, has asked the county to purchase her property — three quarters of an acre — along with her home and other outbuildings on the land, for $260,000. It’s “small change” in the grand scheme of things, she said. The county spent $8.7 million in 2009 to purchase 80 acres between Petigru Drive and the dirt portion of Parkersville Road for the park.

However, the county isn’t interested in Blackwell’s property, which has been on the market for six months.

In a public appeal to council at its January meeting, Blackwell presented a letter from her Realtor, Diane LaBaugh of Keller Williams of Myrtle Beach, stating concerns about the park property, including noise, lights, traffic and crowds, have hindered efforts to sell the property.

But several people in the real estate business on the Waccamaw Neck, none of whom would agree to be named, say Blackwell’s trouble comes more from the state of the market than from proximity to the park.

While they feel compassion for her situation, they said, her asking price is too high, and the proximity to the park is likely to be an asset, not a hindrance, for some buyers, much as it is with proximity to schools.

“I’m sure some people would be thrilled” to be so close to the park, one agent said. Another mentioned the benefits of not having to drive to reach tennis matches and soccer games.

The asking price isn’t a consideration in the county’s decision not to buy the land.

“The bottom line is we don’t have a need for her property,” said County Administrator Sel Hemingway. And Blackwell’s appeal isn’t unique, except perhaps for the doggedness of it.

“I can’t tell you how many people have approached me and said ‘I’d like to sell the county my property,’ ” Hemingway said. “We’ve had countless people, but we’ve identified what we needed and we don’t need anymore.”

County Council Member Bob Anderson told Blackwell much the same, he said, adding his opinion that the county already owns “way too much land.”

“If the land was $7,000, it would be a great deal, but the price is not the issue. The issue is the county doesn’t need her land just because she wants to sell it to us and I certainly don’t approve of buying any land just because it’s a hardship case,” he said.

Blackwell was not impressed with the county’s position and certainly not with Anderson’s opinion of her situation.

She complained Anderson was abrasive and she had an easier time getting in touch with the governor. She also claims Hemingway stopped returning her calls and was slow to give her a definitive answer about the purchase. They showed no compassion, she said.

“I don’t want people to pity me,” Blackwell said. “I’ve got two degrees, I graduated cum laude and I lived on my own for 30 years. I’m just trying to take care of myself the best way I can.”

She has a real estate background and was successful in the field, she said, but admits, she isn’t sure what more she can do help sell her property.

She wants to purchase a home in Litchfield Country Club that would give her enough space to have her brother move in with her. Her doctor has said she shouldn’t live alone anymore.

“My home is big in some ways — I can maneuver around it in a wheelchair — but the second bedroom is small. I don’t have room for another adult to live,” she said.

Her situation means she wants to sell as quickly as she can. She is planning to make another offer to the county, this one for the land without the structures.

But advice from real estate agents is to hold off and ride it out, something a lot of people are having to do now, they said. However, it was suggested she could also look for other uses for the property that would work well with the park.

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