CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Neighbors in historic African-American communities in Mount Pleasant say their properties are under constant threat from outside developers, who want to purchase land that has been in their families for hundreds of years.
Settlement community residents say their ancestors put in blood, sweat and tears to acquire and maintain their land but now, they find themselves in a constant battle to keep developers from taking it.
“It’s one of those things where we’ve gotten shrunk and shrunk and shrunk,” Carla Gregg, president of the Four Mile Community Association, said. “Now it’s like, ‘Wow, how much longer can we hang on to what we have here?'”
Historic settlement communities, such as Four Mile, are working to preserve land they’ve owned for generations from outside developers.
“I get at least one or two postcards a day in my mailbox,” Gregg said. “At least one or two calls a week. ‘Are you interested in selling?’ People in the neighborhood get the exact same thing.”
Gregg says she’s witnessed her neighborhood dwindle as a result of development projects over the years.
“Four Mile actually is on 17,” she said. “So, when it went from two lanes, to four, to eight and with the median in the inside, that took away some homes. It took away a lot of people’s front yards, my family included. Then, when Hungry Neck came, it took out a whole section of Four Mile.”
Gregg says developers only view the land her ancestors worked hard to acquire as prime real estate, and don’t respect its historic value.
“I think the developers just see, ‘Oh, they are 15 minutes from downtown. They are seven minutes from Isle of Palms. They are two minutes from Towne Centre,’” she said. “They see it as a selling point for the new development that they want to put in.”
Snowden residents say their community also constantly faces threats from outside developers.
“I see them like once or twice a month coming in,” Snowden resident Thomas Jenkins said, “wanting to know, who owns this property, or who’s in charge of that certain property? It’s all the time. All the time.”
A recent housing development in Snowden has current resident, and former Mount Pleasant Town Councilmember, Thomasena Stokes-Marshall, concerned.
“He has a huge sign on the Long Point Road,” Stokes-Marshall said, “Coaxum Road that says these homes are selling for $700,000.”
She worries the $700,000 price tag will drastically increase property taxes for families who have lived there for generations.
“The kind of negative impact it will have on residents who have lived here in Snowden pretty much all their lives,” Stokes-Marshall said, “and who can least afford it, is going to present the potential for taxing us out of our property.”
The African American Settlement Community Historic Commission (AASCHC) was formed in 2016 to advocate for settlement communities. AASCHC President John Wright says his organization will fight for Snowden residents in this instance as well.
“We’ve been here for a very long time,” Wright said. “We’re okay with diversity, we’re okay with living amongst other people, but what we don’t want is we don’t want to be taxed out of our communities that we’ve been in for hundreds of years.”
Wright says there needs to be a community benefit agreement established between settlement communities and local municipalities.
“They’re already historic in its nature,” he said, “by being settlement communities. So, then why should a settlement community endure any additional taxes, just because someone wants to come in and build a $700,000 home.”
Many settlement community residents say, ultimately, what they want in their neighborhoods is peace.
“We don’t want anymore development,” Gregg said. “We have enough gas stations, we have enough hotels, we have enough houses. I think we have enough of everything right now to say, ‘Well done, Mount Pleasant. Can we just be left alone?'”