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Home / Opinion Digests / Real Property / Real Property – Dueling Municipal Annexations – Standing – Property Description – Technical Deficiency – Prior Jurisdiction Doctrine

Real Property – Dueling Municipal Annexations – Standing – Property Description – Technical Deficiency – Prior Jurisdiction Doctrine

Although the City of North Charleston’s description of the property it was annexing inadvertently included property that had already been annexed by the City of Charleston (which prior annexation was not reflected in county records), this was a technical deficiency that North Charleston could correct retroactively after Charleston tried to annex the same property.

We affirm the circuit court’s judgment in favor of North Charleston.

When the City of North Charleston first annexed Millbrook Plantation’s 36-acre tract (Parcel 006) in 2017, the annexation description inadvertently included a portion of Parcel 006 that had been annexed by the City of Charleston in 2005 (Parcel 006-1). Parcel 006-1 was not reflected in county records in 2017.

Charleston initiated annexation proceedings for Parcel 006 before North Charleston adopted an ordinance clarifying that its 2017 annexation did not include Parcel 006-1.

Charleston filed suit, challenging North Charleston’s annexation of Parcel 006. The circuit court ruled that Charleston lacked standing because North Charleston’s 2017 ordinance did not intend to annex Parcel 006-1. We agree.

Charleston relies on Bostick v. City of Beaufort, 307 S.C. 347, 415 S.E.2d 389 (1992), in arguing that North Charleston’s 2017 ordinance was fatally flawed because the inaccuracies in the description of the proposed property to be annexed created a substantive defect that could not be corrected through a subsequent ordinance. We disagree.

The Bostick court specifically referenced the property description requirement of S.C. Code Ann. § 5-3-150(1), which states, “The petition shall contain a description of the area to be annexed and there shall be attached to the petition a plat of the area to be annexed . . . .” The court found the omission of the property description for the area to be annexed and the failure to show this area on the plat was substantive because it was in direct contravention of § 5-3-150(1)’s statutory requirements.

North Charleston’s inadvertent inclusion of Parcel 006-1 based upon then existing county information was a technical deficiency capable of correction by North Charleston’s 2018 ordinance. Further, South Carolina does not require scientific precision when describing property in other property disputes.

We therefore affirm the circuit court’s finding that the 2018 ordinance was lawful as it did not attempt to annex Parcel 006-1 but, instead, attempted to clarify its intent to annex only Parcel 006. Consequently, Charleston’s argument that it possesses standing based on infringement of its statutory and proprietary rights is moot.

Charleston argues that before North Charleston gave first reading to either the 2017 ordinance or the 2018 ordinance, Charleston’s City Council had already accepted a petition to annex Parcel 006 and ordered a public hearing on the matter. According to Charleston, under the common law “prior jurisdiction doctrine” also called the “prior pending proceedings rule,” this entitled Charleston to complete the annexation without interference. However, our Supreme Court has previously declined to address whether these common law doctrines apply in South Carolina. As such, the circuit court did not err in holding that Charleston lacks current or existing precedent supporting this alternative argument for standing.


City of Charleston v. City of North Charleston (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-010-23, 8 pp.) (Bruce Williams, C.J.) Appealed from Charleston County Circuit Court (Eugene Griffith, J.) Frances Isaac Cantwell, Julia Parker Copeland, Wilbur Johnson and Russell Grainger Hines for appellant; Bruce Miller, Derk Van Raalte and Brady Hair for respondents. S.C. App.

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