Neighboring landowners and KIG have filed suit against Georgetown County over the County's decision to approve the Goff rezoning request on November 9, 2021. Court actions are always a last resort. KIG and citizens of the Waccamaw Neck have tried hard to work together with the county, but many county officials have rejected our efforts and continue ignoring law and proper procedure.
The last proper action taken on this rezoning request was at third and final reading on October 26, 2021, when council voted not to approve the rezoning. Citizens were shocked to learn the County is now taking the position that the rezoning was approved on November 9. There was no public notice, as required by law, that action on the rezoning request would take place on November 9, nor was there a vote to approve the rezoning.
At the November 9 meeting, Councilman Raymond Newton made an improper Motion for Reconsideration of the rezoning which had been defeated at the previous meeting. The Motion for Reconsideration was seconded by Councilman Steve Goggans and erroneously voted on by Council.
But reconsideration of the rezoning never happened. There was no motion or vote on November 9 to approve the rezoning. When, where or how the rezoning was allegedly approved remains a mystery.
The suit is a Declaratory Judgment Action asking the court to declare the approved rezoning ordinances as null, void, and of no force or effect due to the County's violation of the following state and local laws in its ostensible approval of the rezoning:
(1) South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, S.C. Code Sections 30-4-80
Requires the county to give notice to the public of matters upon which action will be taken at public meetings.
There was no notice that action would be taken on this rezoning request at the November 9, council meeting.
(2) South Carolina Planning and Enabling Act, S.C. Code, Section 6-29-720(B) & 710
Requires zoning regulations to be in accordance with the Comprehensive Plan and to promote general public welfare.
This rezoning was in direct conflict with the plain language of the Comprehensive Plan and does not promote general public welfare.
(3) Georgetown County Zoning Ordinance 1701
Requires that Council may consider a zoning amendment only when justified by public necessity, convenience, general welfare or good zoning practice.
The county did not consider this justification requirement and the overwhelming weight of the evidence demonstrates that the rezoning would have a negative effect on public welfare.
(4) Planning Commission By-laws, Article V, Section 2
Requires that all zoning amendments be reviewed by the Planning Commission FIRST for conformity with the Comprehensive Plan and any conflicts noted in a report to County Council.
There was no review by Planning Commission to determine conformity with the Comprehensive Plan nor was there a report to Council noting conflicts.
(5) Georgetown County Council Rules of Procedure, Section 2-486 and 2-519
Rule 2-486 requires that ordinances may be passed only by a vote of a majority of those present. At third reading on October 26, the proposed rezoning ordinances did not receive a majority vote of those present, and, therefore, did not pass.
Rule 2-519 governs Motions to Reconsider which may be made only by a council member who voted on the prevailing side of the matter for which reconsideration is requested. Councilman Newton had not voted on the prevailing side of the rezoning, and, therefore, did not have authority to make a Motion to Reconsider the rezoning. Notwithstanding Newton's ineligibility, a Motion to Reconsider does not operate to automatically approve the underlying matter to be reconsidered. It operates only to permit the underlying matter to be reconsidered.
The dubious methods employed on November 9, after proper defeat of the rezoning on October 26, circumvented government transparency requirements, proper procedure, and Constitutional protections thereby creating an illegitimate opportunity to approve the ordinances in a way that would not have been permitted by application of proper law and procedure.
The nonprofit public interest law firm, Keep It Green Advocacy, Inc., is handling our legal representation with the assistance of a Charleston based law firm. This suit has potentially far-reaching impact to Waccamaw Neck residents and serves the entire community. Legal actions are expensive, and we need your financial support to see this through.
If you are interested in learning more of the underlying substance, please feel free to review the filed complaint and exhibits by clicking this link.