Cayce Development May Have Hit Another Snag


Cayce development may have hit another snag

April 30, 2008

By CLIF LeBLANC – The State

A panel of federal appeals court judges Tuesday added yet another ripple to the battle over flood maps for Cayce’s disputed and huge Vista Farms project.

Three judges on the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled a November decision by an S.C. federal judge should not take effect yet.

The appeals panel, which included the court’s chief judge, issued a stay of Judge Margaret Seymour’s rulings in November 2007 and November 2005.

Seymour decided flood maps issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency were invalid. She said FEMA failed to give proper public notification that it would adopt the maps, which effectively banned development of most of a then-5,000-acre, $1 billion project called Green Diamond.

An attorney for Cayce residents fighting the developers said Tuesday’s latest legal development would likely delay construction.

“It’s good news because it ensures that anyone proposing construction in that area will have to show that new levees won’t raise floodwaters on neighboring homes,” Blan Holman said.

Efforts to reach Manton Grier, an attorney for developers Columbia Venture, and their chief spokesman, Bob Hughes, were unsuccessful.

Efforts to reach FEMA were unsuccessful.

The panel’s decision can be appealed to the full 4th Circuit bench, but the court rarely overturns its panels. The next step would be for the appeals judges to hear arguments on the merits of Seymour’s rulings.

Holman said he estimates the arguments will be held in the fall with a ruling likely early in 2009.

Any decision the appeals court reaches can be taken to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case landed in federal court when Columbia Venture challenged FEMA’s calculations on how much of the project could end up under water should the Congaree River have rare, heavy flooding.

Seymour found the maps were improperly adopted because they were not advertised in the Federal Register, and overturned them.

That raised the prospect the development, scaled back and now called Vista Farms, could go forward.

About the time of Seymour’s most recent ruling, Columbia Venture asked to have what remained of the property annexed into Cayce.

In December, Cayce leaders accepted about 3,000 acres, which expanded the city’s size by about one-third.

A contingent of conservationists and Cayce residents who fought the project complained Cayce City Council acted too quickly and did not open the annexation question to full public review.

The city announced last week that Cayce residents have until 5 p.m. May 6 to file written opinions about the latest flood maps, which Holman said are similar to the ones FEMA issued in 2001.

Holman said he is unsure how the latest court ruling will affect that process or the subsequent 90-day period for further public comment.


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