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The S.C. Supreme Court decided earlier this month it -- rather than the S.C. Court of Appeals -- will hear the appeal of a lawsuit challenging Yemassee's 2006 annexation of the 1,317-acre Bindon Plantation on the Pocotaligo River.
The suit brought against Yemassee in July 2006 claims the town mishandled the annexation and that Bindon is not properly connected geographically to Yemassee, as required by state law.
Environmental watchdog the Coastal Conservation League and three residents from Yemassee and Beaufort County filed the lawsuit shortly after Yemassee Town Council voted in April 2006 to annex the land and permit construction of as many as 1,300 homes and 450,000 square feet of commercial space there.
Before annexing Bindon, Yemassee annexed a 20-foot-wide, 2-mile-long strip that connects the town to the plantation.
A judge threw out the lawsuit in 2008, ruling the plaintiffs had no legal standing to challenge the town's actions.
The plaintiffs appealed to the state Court of Appeals.
The Supreme Court has not yet scheduled a date for the hearing, plaintiffs' attorney Trenholm Walker said Wednesday. It could be months before they hear the case, he added.
Attorney Roberts Vaux of Bluffton, who is representing the town of Yemassee, said the developers, Bindon Plantation LLC, could begin developing the land with town approval before the pending suit is heard.However, Yemassee Mayor J.L. Goodwin said the developers have not approached the town about beginning construction.
A representative from Bindon Plantation could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The Supreme Court did not say in its June 16 ruling why it decided to hear the lawsuit, Walker said. However, he speculates it is because the lower court, in its decision to throw out the suit, relied on precedent set by the Supreme Court when it heard another annexation-related case in 2002 -- St. Andrews Public Service District v. City Council of the city of Charleston.
In that lawsuit, the Supreme Court ruled only parties with an "interest in the property" being annexed have legal right to challenge the annexation, Walker said.
What, exactly, constitutes "interest" is a question Walker said he and his clients want clarified.
The plaintiffs believe they have a valid interest in the Bindon Plantation property because it sits adjacent to public, state-owned marshland along the Pocotaligo River, Walker said.
The annexation sparked controversy among town leaders and some residents when requested in 2006.
Yemassee officials have said development of Bindon Plantation would help the economy of the town and surrounding counties.
Residents have complained that dense development is unsuitable for the rural, marsh-side land and that police, water and fire service could not be efficiently extended from Yemassee to the plantation, which is more than two miles away.