For every bit of good farm news we get, there comes a grim headline and today’s was a doozy. The Post and Courier’s story “Kiawah project would uproot popular Johns Island farm stand” had us fuming. Diane Knich reports that “a new municipal complex on the Betsy Kerrison Parkway on Johns Island” will force Sidi Limehouse’s Rosebank Farm produce stand to move out.
But it gets worse. Limehouse had first agreed to move out by Dec. 31, the end of his profitable winter holiday season. However, according to Knich, Kiawah’s Town Council has held closed door meetings over the past few months “but then failed to vote in public before taking its next steps.” And now Limehouse has been told he must vacate the 21.5-acre parcel he leases by Nov. 30.
We caught up with Limehouse to get his reaction. “The problem with the whole thing is for some reason, the city council and Mayor of Kiawah tried to keep this a secret from everybody,” says Limehouse. A Nov. 30 closing will hit Limehouse and his staff in the midst of the busy Christmas season. “We make 2,000 very fancy Christmas wreaths,” he explains. In fact, the staff is already knee-deep in orders. However, 10 days ago Limehouse got the news that the vacate deadline had been moved up. “The real estate guy approached me,” says Limehouse. “He said, ‘We can’t close until you’re gone.’ I think the reason for that is they didn’t want the citizens of Kiawah to know. If they knew, the more opposition they’re going to have.”
The irony is Limehouse believes roughly 75 to 80 percent of his business comes from people who live on Kiawah and the tourists who visit in the summer. “The people who live on Kiawah stop in the stand. We have quality stuff, because we grow it,” says Limehouse.
But he’s not going to fight the Town of Kiawah. “If they don’t want me to be there, I really don’t want to be there,” he says. “I don’t really know what I’m going to do yet. Fold up my tent and disappear.”
Limehouse has been at the location, and one just around the corner, for 19 years. He sees this move as another in a long line of threats to area farmers, saying, “We’re the last of the Mohicans.”
In response to City Paper‘s Facebook post of this story, the Town of Kiawah has commented with the following:
“The Town of Kiawah Island has been evaluating the purchase of property both on and off Kiawah Island since January 2014. Property purchase would position the Town to plan for the future and address existing office and parking space limitations.As specifically permitted under state law, the Town has been handling all of the property purchase negotiations in Executive Session. The associated documents are exempt from public disclosure. All negotiations are bound by a confidentiality agreement to protect the integrity of the process.The Town has identified property on Betsy Kerrison Parkway which has been up for sale. The Town has undertaken a detailed investigation to determine the usability of this site prior to purchasing. A critical step is the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) issuing a permit for a septic sewer system.With a sewer permit and completion of the due diligence process, Town Council will vote publically on the acquisition of the property. In addition, background leading to the purchase will be fully reviewed with the public.Concerns have been raised about the future of Rosebank Farms. The Town values the presence of Mr. Limehouse, Rosebank Farms and their contribution to our community. The Town hopes the seller and Mr. Limehouse can reach resolution and understands that satisfactory preparations are being made for his future location. #rosebankfarms #kiawahisland #townofkiawahisland”