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SC Community Advocates Fear Annexations Could Threaten It

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Advocates in a South Carolina community fear proposed annexations could hurt efforts to win historic recognition for the area.

The Phillips community has been seeking a historic designation from Charleston County and inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places that would give the area higher standing when federal projects are reviewed, The Post and Courier reported.

Community leaders recently won a fight to keep South Carolina Highway 41 from being widened through the middle of the area. Now, they said they're dealing with requests to annex about 19 acres (8 hectares) of land into the town of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

Most of Phillips sits in unincorporated Charleston County, and the annexations could seriously damage the community's application to the National Register of Historic Places, consultant Brittany Tulla said. The fear, she said, is that if enough of the community is transformed by modern development, it could fail to win recognition from the federal government as historic.

Phillips was settled in the late 1800s by Black residents, many of whom had previously been enslaved. Today, their descendants make up most of the residents of the small community.

Community leaders want to see Phillips treated as a historic community, just like parts of the Charleston peninsula or Mount Pleasant's Old Village, with extra levels of protection built in to the development review process.

"They want to have future developments reviewed to make sure they fit with the community's historic character," said Jason Crowley of the Coastal Conservation League. The group, along with the Historic Charleston Foundation and Charleston Preservation Society, hired Tulla to consult.

Charleston County Council has been moving to designate the 259-property, 422-acre community as historic, and a final vote could come at a meeting Aug. 24. But some council members have expressed reservations.

"I'm in favor of the concept, but I'm concerned about private property rights," Councilman Herb Sass said in June. "I'm worried about unintended consequences."

At that County Council meeting, real estate agent Jay Satterfield said he has two properties in Phillips that are for sale, but potential buyers have been scared off by the proposed historic district designation.

"It happened three or four times," he said.

The owners of nine properties have asked to be excluded from the potential historic district, and the owners of three others have sought annexation into Mount Pleasant. So far, the county has not excluded any properties, and Mount Pleasant Town Council has postponed action on the annexation requests.

Richard Habersham, president of the Phillips community, said approving the nearly 19 acres for annexation "would help destroy the community."

"These two or three parcels should not ... destroy our hopes of being on the National Register," he said.