Historic Charleston Foundation successfully settled litigation filed in federal court defending an easement HCF holds on the Carroll Building located at the corner of North Market and East Bay streets. The property owners, along with a prospective purchaser, had initially sought HCF’s approval to develop a 50-room hotel at the site. The request was denied.
HCF felt strongly that there was an over-concentration of hotels in this area of the city and that a healthy mixture of uses is vital to maintaining a vibrant, livable downtown. The HCF Easement Committee denied the requested conversion from an office building to a hotel. Despite HCF’s denial of the use change, the owner attempted to seek approval through the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals, prompting HCF to file a lawsuit.
Donated preservation easements involve federal tax laws that allow a grantor to ensure the protection of a historic building and to take a significant tax deduction by placing restrictions, lasting in perpetuity, on the use and appearance of the property. Easements endow HCF with rights and responsibilities to enforce and protect the conservation easement consistent with federal tax laws and HCF’s mission.
“The last option is always litigation, but we had no choice” said Zoë L. Stephens, President of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees. “In doing so, we have established an important precedent that the Foundation will proactively protect and defend our easement program in court when threatened. HCF initiated the litigation to defend the easement’s legal authority to govern the use of the building, as provided for in the terms of the easement and as required by federal law. In settling the litigation, we were able to protect the ability to govern use in all of our easements and to ensure that the Carroll Building cannot become a hotel now or in the future.”
HCF currently holds and enforces approximately 400 easements and restrictive covenants throughout the Lowcountry.
About Historic Charleston Foundation
Established in 1947, Historic Charleston Foundation (HCF) is a nonprofit organization that champions the historic authenticity, cultural character and livability of the Charleston region through advocacy, stewardship and community engagement. The Foundation is known for its preservation and advocacy programs including protective covenants and easements; education and outreach; and it is the first organization in the country to establish a revolving fund to acquire and preserve important buildings, a model now replicated in historic communities across the nation. This mission is supported through the generosity of preservation-minded donors, the annual Spring Festival of Houses and Gardens, a licensed products program, and retail shops. In addition, HCF fulfills its educational mission through the interpretation of its collections and two museum sites: the Nathaniel Russell House, c. 1808, and the Aiken-Rhett House, c. 1820.