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Homeowner, DOT settle on truck route right of way

Posted: March 26, 2018 5:24 p.m.
Updated: March 27, 2018 1:00 a.m.
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According to attachments to tonight’s Camden City Council agenda, a dispute over a S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) right of way for Segment 3 of the Camden Truck Route project on York Street has been settled.

Council will take up first reading of an ordinance during tonight’s meeting that will authorize City Manager Mel Pearson to executive a quit claim deed as part of the settlement.

The settlement is between SCDOT and Mill Street resident Blanche Scott, whose property sits at the northeast corner of Mill and York streets.

According to the court documents attached to tonight’s agenda, Circuit Court Judge Alison R. Lee ordered Scott on March 21 to comply with a settlement agreement reached on Feb. 13. The order states that the case began on Jan. 24 with SCDOT alleging that Scott and another resident obstructed its rights of way in violation of state law and trespassed on those rights of way. The court held a hearing on Feb. 5 to hear SCDOT’s request for an immediate temporary injunction.
At the beginning of a March 14 hearing on SCDOT’s motion to compel the settlement, SCDOT filed a “stipulation of dismissal” regarding the other resident, who is now no longer part of the case.

Scott opposed the motion to compel, claiming she was coerced into signing both the settlement agreement and the temporary easement. She further claimed she only saw the signature pages of the agreement and temporary easement, didn’t understand their terms and, therefore, shouldn’t be held to those terms.

Scott also testified that she had been upset with the truck route project since at least 2016, having attended public hearings on the project, and met with SCDOT’s attorneys, engineers and rights of way personnel on several occasions.

Former County Councilman John Wells served as Scott’s attorney up until the hearing on SCDOT’s motion to compel the settlement. At that time, he asked to withdraw because Scott had written several letters to the court expressing her dissatisfaction with the settlement and her attorney’s representation, and was seeking to move forward on her own.

Once Wells’ request to withdraw was granted, he was called to the stand to testify about a conference at SCDOT and the circumstances regarding the settlement and temporary easement. Wells testified there is always pressure and stress inherent in a lawsuit … but the pressure involved was not unusual or extreme.” He said no “take it or leave it” demands were made by SCDOT. Wells also testified he successfully secured SCDOT’s agreement to the quit-claim deed and for the city to do the same. He also testified that SCDOT agreed to Scott’s demand for $15,000 as recompense, based on the appraised value of the property in regard to the size of a new, permanent easement.

Upon obtaining the settlement, Wells testified, he disbursed $5,000 to Scott to relocate any personal property out of the temporary easement area. He said it was only after he released the balance of the retainer that he learned she was dissatisfied with the settlement and his services.

Judge Lee found that “neither the settlement negotiations nor the Agreement of Settlement were or are oppressive, coercive, unjust or unconscionable” nor that Scott was acting under duress when she signed the agreement.

In exchange for the $15,000, the settlement laid out that SCDOT acquired a new permanent 45-foot easement from the relocated center line of York Street, as well as a 50-foot temporary easement from the same line (an additional 5 feet), which will expire on Feb. 14, 2020.

The ordinance council will take up tonight is to authorize a deed for any interest outside of the new, permanent 45-foot easement.

In other business tonight, council will:

• hear a presentation on Kershaw County becoming a finalist for the 2018 All-American City Award;

• receive a report from Pearson on the Black River Road Corridor study;

• consider second and final reading of an ordinance authorizing the acceptance of a 6.6-acre property at 1000 York Street from the Kershaw County School District as part of a future playground project;

• enter executive session to discuss a legal matter pertaining to a right-of-way property;

• take action on matters relating to that discussion (it was not clear whether this directly pertains to the SCDOT/Scott issue); and

• consider a resolution authorizing the consumption of beer and wine at an upcoming Ducks Unlimited Wateree Chapter non-profit dinner.

Tonight’s meeting will begin at 6 p.m. on the second floor of Camden City Hall, 1000 Lyttleton St., and is open to the public.

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