On Wed. Dec. 11 the Historic Charleston Foundation (HCF) announced a lawsuit against the company that owns 24 N. Market Street, the office building that housed the Art Institute of Charleston until its closure earlier this year.
In a press release on Wednesday, HCF outlined the reason for the suit:
The litigation involves a conservation easement granted in 1984 under federal tax laws that allowed the grantor to take a significant tax deduction by granting HCF a restriction, in perpetuity, on the use of the property. This conservation easement endowed HCF with rights and responsibilities to enforce and protect the conservation easement consistent with federal tax laws and HCF’s mission.
The current owner, who HCF does not name, recently sought approval from HCF to construct a 50-room hotel on the property, which HCF denied. The owner challenged and refuted the foundation’s rights and responsibilities, which has led to this lawsuit.
County records show Carroll Building, LLC as the owner of the property at 24 N. Market St.
Property owners, open lands advocates, and preservationists (and some nefarious investors) often employ conservation easements to provide nearly permanent protection for properties that could potentially be significantly altered in their appearance or use some time in the future.
In Wednesday’s announcement, Crayton Walters, the president of HCF’s Board of Trustees, said:
The last option is always litigation, but we had no choice. Use restrictions are a fundamental requirement of the tax law that allows for conservation easements. As a federally qualified donee and protector of qualified conservation easements, the law requires HCF to protect and enforce its rights in the conservation easements that it holds.