A judge has been asked to restrict public access to a 229-acre parcel purchased by Beaufort County last month for $6.95 million with funds earmarked for preservation.
If the court agrees, county plans to build a public park or recreation area there would be thwarted.
The lawsuit, filed by a landowner and a developer that once planned 76 homes on the Pinckney Point tract, says a small portion of Pinckney Colony Road is private. It asks the judge to enforce earlier agreements that limit access to the road.
"It has been conclusively adjudicated against the county and agreed upon by the county that the road parcel is a private road," the suit says. "Further, the road parcel may only be used for those uses appropriate for a private residential community."
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Road LLC, which owns about two-tenths of a mile of the road leading to the tract, and Pinckney Point LLC, a Florida company that for years tried to develop the area into a luxury housing community, filed the suit.
Beaufort County and Equity Resource Partners III LLC, which sold the land to the county last month, are defendants. Property records do not make clear the exact date Equity Resource Partners bought the land, if it purchased it directly from Pinckney Point LLC or why it was for sale.
Attempts this week to reach Equity Resource Partners III LLC for comment were unsuccessful.
G. Trenholm Walker, an attorney with the Charleston firm Pratt-Thomas Walker, represents both Road LLC and Pinckney Point LLC. He declined to comment.
Agnes Pinckney, who lives at the end of Pinckney Colony Road, fought the county for years over ownership of the road. She transferred her interest in the road parcel to Road LLC, the suit says. She also declined to comment.
The county declined to comment on the suit and has asked a judge to dismiss it.
Pinckney Point is a peninsula surrounded by the Okatie and Colleton rivers. Plans to develop it into a housing and marina complex were delayed for years by court battles, neighborhood opposition and legal questions about whether Pinckney Colony Road is county-owned or private.
The suit suggests the county agreed in 2011 that a portion of the road was private.
Although the lawsuits were resolved about two years ago, the development never got off the ground.
At issue now are several agreements dating to 2011 that appear to deem a portion of Pinckney Colony Road private. An easement over that road section was granted to Pinckney Point LLC in late 2011 to develop the land.
The suit says access to a public park on Pinckney Point is not among the uses the easement allows.
Terms of the settlement do not "include use and access by the general public and restrict access across the private road to the limited purposes," according to the suit.
Although there are no firm plans to use the vacant land for public recreation, county officials floated the idea in April as one of many possibilities. The county bought the land through the Rural and Critical Lands program, which is funded by bonds approved in countywide referendums.