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Milton P. Demetre Family Ltd. P'ship v. Beckmann

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

November 26, 2014

The Milton P. Demetre Family Limited Partnership, Appellant,
Harry Beckmann, III, Patricia P. Beckmann, Annie Ruth Hilton Crowley, Raymond Moody Crowley, Donald William Crowley, Harris L. Crowley, Jr. and Annie Ruth Crowley Atkinson, Respondents

Heard: June 2, 2014.

Withdrawn, Substituted and Refiled November 26, 2014.

Filed August 20, 2014.

Page 597

Appeal From Charleston County. Mikell R. Scarborough, Master-in-Equity. Appellate Case No. 2012-212136.

John Hughes Cooper and John Townsend Cooper, both of John Hughes Cooper, P.C., of Mount Pleasant, and Cain Denny, of Cain Denny, P.A., of Charleston, for Appellant.

Jefferson D. Griffith, III, and Richard L. Whitt, both of Austin & Rogers, P.A., of Columbia, for Respondents.

SHORT, J. FEW, C.J., and GEATHERS, J., concur.



Page 598

[413 S.C. 42] In this action to quiet title, the Milton P. Demetre Family Limited Partnership (Demetre) appeals an order of the Master-in-Equity (the master), arguing the master erred in finding Demetre did not quiet title to certain property on Folly Island. We affirm in part and vacate in part.


In 1920, Jefferson Construction Company platted and subdivided most of the Island of Folly Beach, South Carolina. The 1920 plat was recorded in the Charleston County Register of Mesne Conveyance Office (RMC). In 1965, the 1920 plat was redrawn due to deterioration, and in 1968, it was traced. The redraw added parcels to the 1920 plat; however, the tracing appears to be identical to the 1920 plat. The 1965 and 1968 plats were also recorded and share the same book and page number as the 1920 plat. The 1965 plat added parcels to the 1920 plat; however, the 1968 plat appears to be identical to the 1920 plat and does not include the subject parcels, lots 209 and 210, on Indian Avenue, East.

Page 599

Between approximately 1921 and 1926, the Folly Beach Improvement Company (FBIC) acquired the entire island of Folly Beach and mortgaged its complete interest to Citizens and Southern National Bank of Savannah (C & S Bank). In 1937, the FBIC sold the streets, avenues, and/or lanes in and upon Folly Island to the Board of Township Commission of Folly Island for the use of the public.

[413 S.C. 43] In 1942, C & S Bank foreclosed on the mortgage, and Edward Seabrook, Sr., purchased the land at a public auction. The deed conveyed the island to Seabrook " [s]aving and excepting therefrom such lots and portions of land as have from time to time been conveyed to sundry parties by [FBIC] by deeds recorded in the RMC Office for Charleston County." The 1942 deed also states the property conveyed is " bounded . . . on the West by the Channel of Folly River and Folly Creek . . . as delineated by the red line" of an 1895 plat (the Tartus survey). Seabrook, Sr., and his wife, Fannie, conveyed Seabrook's property to their son, Edward Seabrook, Jr., through the wills of Seabrook, Sr., who died in 1956, and of Fannie, who died in 1960.

From Seabrook, Jr., in 2002, Demetre purchased lots 206 to 208 on Indian Avenue, East for $45,000. Demetre purchased lots 202 to 205 in 2002 from another seller for $475,000. Also in 2002, Demetre purchased " [a]ny and all interest in marshland or highland north of lot 201 Indian Avenue East" for $5 from another seller.

On May 30, 2002, Demetre purchased from Seabrook, Jr., the " portion of . . . roadway [on Indian Avenue] that is undeveloped and unpaved" bordering lots 201 to 205 for $10,000 by quitclaim deed. After contact with the City of Folly Beach, Demetre believed Seabrook owned the land.[2] However, neither the mayor nor the city administrator remembered notifying Demetre or its realtor that the City of Folly Beach did not own the land.

On December 6, 2002, Demetre brought an action against the City of Folly Beach to quiet title in the road located at the two-hundred block of East Indian Avenue on Folly Beach, South Carolina (" Road" ), which borders other property Demetre owns (The " Road" case). Folly Beach asserted ownership of the Road. Emily Brown, intervenor, owns lot 204 on East Huron Avenue and has used the Road to access her property since January 30, 1986.

On January 23, 2004, Demetre purchased two riverfront lots, 209 and 210, on East Indian Avenue from Seabrook, Jr., [413 S.C. 44] for $23,700 by quitclaim deed. The deed references the 1920 plat.[3] Lots 209 and 210 are shown on the 1965 plat, but they do not appear on the 1920 plat or the Charleston County tax map.[4] Both the 1920 plat and the 1968 plat portray a portion of East Indian Avenue extending from lot 201 to the northwest corner of lot 205. Beyond that, the plats portray the land as marshland.

In a separate action, on October 7, 2005, Demetre brought an action against Annie Crowley, Raymond Crowley, Donald Crowley, Harris Crowley, Jr., and Annie Atkinson (the " Crowleys" ), and Harry and Patricia Beckmann (the " Beckmanns" ) for declaratory judgment and to quiet title to lots 209 and 210 where the Crowleys and Beckmanns have docks. The Crowleys and Beckmanns were permitted to intervene in the Road case because their lots abut East Indian Avenue. The Crowleys purchased lot 210, East Huron Avenue, on September 1, 1964, and the Beckmanns purchased lot 209, East Huron Avenue, on April 27, 1972. Both of the deeds referenced the 1920 plat, which shows no lots between their lots and the marsh abutting the river. The Crowleys and Beckmanns

Page 600

believed they owned all of the property from their homes to the marsh. Harry Beckmann testified he believed the State owned everything from his property line to the Folly River. In 1988, both the Crowleys and the Beckmanns applied for permits from the South Carolina Coastal Council (Council) to construct docks from their lots to the Folly River across East Indian Avenue lots 209 and 210. The Council granted the permits, and the docks were constructed.[5]

After reference to the master and consolidation, the cases were tried on December 12, 2006. On March 2, 2007, the [413 S.C. 45] master issued the " Road" Order, finding the Road was dedicated to the public and the City of Folly Beach owned the Road. On March 26, 2007, the master issued the " Dock" Order, ruling in favor of the dock owners on all grounds. The master denied Demetre's post-trial motions to reconsider. Demetre timely appealed both orders to this court, and we consolidated the appeals. This court heard the matter, Demetre I, on November 6, 2008, and issued its refiled opinion on April 21, 2009.[6]

In Demetre I, this court separated the appeal into " The Road Case" and " The Dock Case." As to the Road Case, the court explained the 1937 deed dedicated all streets, avenues, and/or lanes to Folly Beach. The court noted the 1920 plat, which was referenced in Demetre's deeds, showed East Indian Avenue extending from lot 201 to the northwest corner of lot 205. The court affirmed the master's finding that the Road was dedicated to Folly Beach, and it accepted the dedication. The court also affirmed the master's finding that Demetre did not satisfy the elements of equitable estoppel. In its conclusion, the court stated: " [W]e affirm the master's . . . order finding Folly Beach owns East Indian Avenue . . . ."

As to the Dock Case, this court found the following:

Demetre sought a declaration that [it] owns all the property between the Crowleys' and the Beckmanns' lots and the mean high water mark, and [it] sought to quiet any defects in [its] title to the land. The master did not rule on either request and only held the Crowleys and the Beckmanns believed the State owned the land when they applied for their dock permits, which does not resolve the question of actual ownership. Demetre does not dispute the presumption that the State holds in trust for public purposes the property below the mean high water mark. Therefore, because the master failed to rule on Demetre's requests for a ...

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