Plans to turn an old warehouse downtown into a modern cruise ship terminal are in doubt again now that a federal lawsuit has been filed by local environmental and conservation groups.
The South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the Preservation Society of Charleston filed the federal suit, which is seeking to have a federal Army Corps of Engineers permit for the $35 million cruise terminal project voided, on July 2. The groups and are opposing a request from the plaintiffs, the Army Corps, to have the case moved to Charleston, and say they want the case to be heard in Washington D.C. because the issues in the case have national implications, News2 reports.
However, last year the same groups were arguing for a local take on case against the cruise terminal plan they filed in the state court system, while the defendants wanted the state's highest court to weigh in. That case revolved around how local zoning and environmental laws and nuisance ordinances pertained to the cruise industry.
The S.C. Supreme Court agreed take up the case before it went to trial in a lower court, which was considered a victory for the Army Corps and the S.C. State Ports Authority, who argued anything dealing with maritime industries was a statewide issue.
The S.C. Supreme Court appointed Circuit Judge Clifton Newton to act as "special referee," to listen to the arguments of each side and make recommendations. Newton spent more than five hours over two days listening to arguments over the defendents' motion to dismiss the case on July 12-13, but has not issued a ruling, MyrtleBeachOnline.com reports.
Meanwhile state regulators have begun work on a revised permit for the terminal, and took public comments on the project all last month. A public hearing on the new permit has been set for Sept. 19 in North Charleston.