College won't buy plantation property

JAMES ISLAND - The College of Charleston can't justify purchasing the historic McLeod Plantation if it must also limit how it uses the property to appease community concerns, college leaders said Tuesday.

The College of Charleston Foundation announced in a news release that it was withdrawing from the proposed purchase of the 40-acre property on James Island.

The college's foundation signed a $4 million agreement of purchase and sale document with the Historic Charleston Foundation in October that was subject to a "due diligence" period. During that period, the college and its foundation explored potential uses of the property.

The college had proposed using the property for academic programs and establishing a "college green" on the property that could have been used by students and the local community for recreation and special events, the release stated.

But the Friends of McLeod, a 600-member community group, raised concerns about the college possibly using the fields for intramural sports.

And the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission issued a statement that said McLeod "should be preserved, protected and interpreted because of its importance to the history and culture of the Gullah/Geechee people." The statement did not specifically address sports fields.

After scaling back its proposed use of the property in response to community input, the college decided it could no longer justify the costs associated with purchasing, preserving and maintaining McLeod Plantation.

"While we are disappointed with this outcome, we are also energized and inspired by the important lessons we have learned and by the exciting new opportunities that have arisen between the college and the African-American community of South Carolina," President George Benson said.

Benson and other college leaders throughout the process met with community groups to get their input on the college's decision.

Benson and other college leaders throughout the process met with community groups to get their input on the college's decision.

Michael Allen, coordinator of the corridor commission, said Benson called him and other members of the commission personally and told them about the college's decision. "We appreciated the opportunity to be part of the discussion and decision," he said.

The group still stands by its statement for how McLeod should be used, he said. And, he said, a lot of good information and research came out of the college's due diligence process that will likely be useful to other groups in the future.

Kitty Robinson, executive director of the Historic Charleston Foundation, in a statement said the goals for McLeod remain the same.

"We are, first and foremost, committed to the protection and preservation of the property's architectural and cultural resources. Secondly, if it is possible for the property to remain open for the public's education, use and enjoyment while ensuring its financial stability, we will endeavor to make that happen."