Yesterday, December 12, IPR filed a federal lawsuit in South Carolina on behalf of its client, Friends of DeReef Park, a local non-profit group based in Charleston. The suit seeks redress for the loss of historic DeReef Park, located in Charleston’s densely populated, historically African Cannonborough-Elliottborough neighborhood. The lawsuit names as defendants the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT) and the National Park Service (NPS), and alleges that the agencies violated federal law when they approved the City of Charleston’s plan to sell the Park to a private developer. IPR argues in the lawsuit that restrictive covenants should have protected the Park and given the community a greater say in the transfer before it took place.
Those covenants took hold when the City of Charleston received federal Land & Water Conservation Fund financing to develop DeReef Park in the early 1980s. In exchange for financing, the City agreed to maintain the Park as a recreational space forever. But in 2003, the City entered into a deal to convey the Park to the developer Civitas, LLC. Five years later, the City sought state and federal approval to lift DeReef Park’s restrictive covenants and transfer them to a substitute property over a mile away. The City claimed that it had to transfer the covenants because it had already promised to convey a free and clear title for DeReef Park to Civitas.
Community members caught wind of the transfer last year and asked the City to find a local replacement generic cialis pills park in the neighborhood. The City declined, claiming it had provided an adequate replacement park. But as explained in Friends of DeReef Park’s complaint, the current so-called replacement park is not an adequate substitute. The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act prohibits moving covenants from one existing park to another, and where it allows a substitute property to replace a park, that property must be of “reasonably equivalent usefulness and location.” The City’s replacement park, however, had already been an existing park years prior to the transfer, and it is located in a tourist district, near a proposed cruise terminal, 1.2 miles away by foot.