081017 Environment: Neighbors ask court to halt work at Prince George
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A photo included in the court filings shows work on the Prince George tract.

Environment: Neighbors ask court to halt work at Prince George

By Charles Swenson

Property owners at Prince George will ask a judge this month for a temporary restraining order to block development on 1,200 acres that they say will harm wetlands and endangered wildlife.

A suit filed in Circuit Court claims the owner of the property violated the conservation easement placed on the property by the original developers by cutting roads through the property, including wetlands and habitat of red-cockaded woodpeckers. The Prince George Community Association wants the court to enjoin the owner, PG Preservation LLC, from “all land disturbance activities,” according to court filings.

The property is part of 1,800 acres between the Atlantic Ocean and the Waccamaw River that was bought by the University of South Carolina Development Foundation from the FDIC in 1994. A private group developed 600 acres as homesites. The foundation kept the rest and planned to use it for research and environmental education programs, activities that were recorded in an agreement between the parties. The conservation easement was given by the foundation to the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

PG Preservation bought the 1,200 acres from the USC Foundation in April 2015 for $3.9 million. Phillip Lammonds, the broker for the sale, said at the time the buyer was a family that wanted to remain anonymous. Tax notices for the property continue to go to Lammonds. The agent for the LLC is a registry company.

The community association began filing notices of pending litigation in Circuit Court in 2014, first naming the USC Foundation and then PG Preservation as defendants. It renewed the notice twice a month until filing suit in June after it “became aware of certain land disturbances on the property that are inconsistent with both the intended use of the property as part of the broader Prince George community and plaintiff’s rights,” according to the suit.

Doris Dawson, the association president, said in a court filing the PG Preservation cut roads in violation of the conservation easement, which bans the use of vehicles in the “beach zone” between May 15 and Nov. 1, and in the wetlands at any time without approval of PRT.

Phil Gaines, the PRT director, inspected the property in late June and confirmed that the agency had not approved any request to use vehicles, according to Dawson’s statement.

PG Preservation “through its various agents” let it be known the work was for timber operations, according to Dawson. But the association says the only timbering on the property since 1994 has been to remove diseased trees. Because PG Preservation got a one-year permit from the Department of Transportation for access to Highway 17, the association doubts “the land disturbance activities are limited to timbering,” according to Dawson.

Without a temporary injunction, the association argues, the activities “will irreparably harm wetlands and protected areas of red-cockaded woodpecker habitat.”

A hearing on the injunction is scheduled for Aug. 24.

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