The South Carolina Supreme Court on Monday shot down the latest attempt by a Charleston suburb to incorporate into its own town.
James Island is now 0-for-3 in its efforts to form a town after the Court unanimously sided with the city of Charleston in the most recent legal fight. While Charleston has long opposed the attempt by James Island leaders, there are also complicated legal issues involved.
This most recent effort involves grouping neighborhoods together that are not connected to each other- which is traditionally illegal under state law. In 2006, James Island officials tried to use a new exemption that allows a town to connect properties together if there is county, state, or federally-owned land between them. Town leaders used state-owned roads to connect the land in an effort to comply.
The court ruled that was improper use of the law, as it caused the new town limits to weave around other parts of the island that have already been annexed by Charleston. Charleston leaders said they opposed the incorporation because it would result in duplication of services.
Charleston attorneys had also wanted the state law declared unconstitutional. However, the court said the law did not violate any rights, so it could not be struck down by court order.
The mere fact that a law may be irrational does not automatically make it unconstitutional. Such arguments must be made at the ballot box, not to the bench.
Charleston mayor Joseph Riley released a statement after the decision, praising the court’s ruling.
For James Island residents who are contiguous to the City and who wish to join the 17,847 James Islanders who are already in the City of Charleston, you are welcomed and encouraged to file an annexation petition. I believe you will find our tax rates and full array of quality services a good bargain.
Right now about 20,000 people live on James Island outside of the Charleston and Folly Beach city limits. The area now goes back to being an unincorporated part of Charleston County. The dissolution process will take several months.