Developers who wanted Richland County to pay them millions of dollars for restricting construction at the old Green Diamond project site lost their fight Monday in the U.S. Supreme Court after 12 years of legal efforts.
In a decision applauded by Green Diamond opponents, the court agreed not to hear an appeal of the case. Unless developers persuade the high court to reconsider its decision-- which is unlikely — the case is over, several lawyers familiar with the case said.
Columbia Venture LLC had sought more than $40 million from Richland County for approving floodplain rules that restricted development on the company’s land, which once made up more than 4,000 acres off Interstate 77 near Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, records show.
Taxpayers “should be relieved because this could have been financially devastating to the county,’’ said Mullen Taylor, a Columbia lawyer who represented Richland County.
Myrtle Beach developer Burroughs and Chapin, the company’s principal shareholder, had proposed building a “city within a city’’ on the low-lying property along the Congaree River. The property is studded with wetlands and has been subject to flooding through the years. Water covered the property shortly after last October’s historic rainstorm in the Columbia area.
After the company proposed the $1 billion project 17 years ago, many people in Columbia balked at the idea because developers would provide few initial details — and because critics said the land would flood, imperiling new homes and businesses proposed for the land. The county also adopted floodplain restrictions that limited new development.
Columbia Venture sued the county in 2004, claiming that the new rules had effectively “taken” its land. Columbia Venture argued that the restrictions place an undue burden on the land’s future development potential and it was entitled to compensation for the loss.
The U.S. Supreme Court did not provide any details Monday on why it had refused to hear the case.
Tony Cox, an executive with Burroughs and Chapin, referred comment to businessman Deas Manning, who is a principal in a company listed in court documents as manager of Columbia Venture LLC. An attempt to reach Manning was unsuccessful.
Environmental lawyer Blan Holman, who represented local and state environmentalists, said the decision wasn’t unexpected because Columbia Venture has lost every major step of the way in its court battle to gain compensation. The S.C. Supreme Court rejected an appeal last summer.
“It brings finality to the case,’’ Holman said, noting that the decision “should give comfort to people who are trying to undertake rational floodplain management’’ rules.
Columbia Venture no longer owns much of the more than 4,000 acres. It sold much of the property to state Rep. Kirkman Finlay, R-Richland, and as of last year, owned about 1,000 acres of the original tract. Today, some of the land has been considered for less restrictive flood regulation by the federal government. But Finlay has said he’s not interested in developing the land he acquired.