United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
ORDER AND OPINION
RICHARD MARK GERGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is the Final Determination of Just Compensation and
Recommendation by the Commission (the "Report").
(Dkt. No. 164.) The United States of America (the
"Government") filed Objections to the Report (Dkt.
No. 172, No. 176) and the Landowners filed a Motion to Adopt
the Report (Dkt. No. 174). On March 25, 2019, the Court heard
oral arguments on the Government's Objections.
reasons set forth below, the Court adopts in part and
declines to adopt in part the Report as the Order of the
Court. The Court finds the full award of just compensation
due to the Landowners is $4, 441, 410.00. As explained below,
the Court therefore orders that the Government pay the
Landowners compensation in the amount of $3, 350, 410.00, in
addition to the amount of $1, 091, 000.00 previously paid in
to the Court.
Government filed this action on July 15, 2016 to impose a
permanent restrictive easement over 269.22 acres of land (the
"Property") located in Beaufort, South Carolina.
(Dkt. No. 1.) The purpose of the easement is to restrict
development in the flight path of jets in and out of the
adjacent U.S. Marine Corps Air Station ("MCAS").
(Dkt. No. 140-1.) On July 22, 2016, the Government deposited
$1, 091, 000.00 with the Court as estimated just
compensation. (Dkt. No. 1, No. 7.) The sole issue in dispute
is the appropriate amount of just compensation due to the
Landowners. Pursuant to Rule 71.1 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, the Court appointed a three-person
Commission comprised of Stephen A. Spitz, Jean H. Toal and
Alan J. Reyner. The Commission conducted a three-day bench
trial in August and December 2018 and issued its final Report
on March 14, 2019.
Commission heard extensive evidence relevant to "the
character, location, or quantity" of the Property.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 71.1(h). The Property, which the Landowners'
family has owned in fee simple since 1955, consists of two
parcels. One parcel is 446.33 acres zoned S-l industrial (the
"Industrial Parcel"), of which the restrictive
easement covers 179 acres. This industrial zoning permits
both light and heavy manufacturing. The second parcel is
90.22 acres zoned T2R residential (the "Residential
Parcel"), of which the restrictive easement covers all
90.22 acres. This residential zoning permits the development
of one house per three acres and farming use. The Property is
undeveloped raw land that consists of unusually few wetlands
for the Lowcountry. It is bisected by power lines running
from an adjacent SCE&G sub-station and has access to all
municipal utilities including water, sewer and gas. The
Property is also unusual for its location: it has significant
road frontage on Parker Drive, a newly paved two-lane road
off Highway US-21; is less than twenty miles from
Interstate-95; and sits between Charleston and Savannah, two
major port cities, each of which houses an aerospace
manufacturing company. The Property also sits within the
Marine Corps Air Station ("MCAS") Overlay Zone,
which is a Beaufort County ordinance originally enacted in
2000 that limits activities that may interfere with MCAS
flight patterns, including any activities that may produce
light, smoke, glare, electronic signals or attract waterfowl.
restrictive easement significantly limits the
Landowners' use of this Property by restricting activity
that may lead to physical interference with MCAS flights or
may otherwise be "incompatible" with the MCAS
"mission." (Dkt. No. 140-1.) Because the Property
is currently raw and undeveloped land, the easement
necessarily contemplates that the land may be developed. More
specifically, the easement forbids:
(1) Any activity, development, or use that would interfere,
limit or otherwise be incompatible with "military air
operations and the mission of [MCAS]";
(2) human habitation, including temporary accommodations such
as trailers, RVs and tents;
(3) the construction or installation of any structure,
building, antenna, tower, wire or other man-made obstruction,
except as necessary for an allowed use of the encumbered
Property, but subject to the Government's approval and
authority to deny such an activity;
(4) any use of the encumbered Property that would
"unnecessarily" attract birds or waterfowl,
including growing vegetation or conducting activities
attractive to flocks of birds or waterfowl;
(5) the construction, installation, alteration or growing of
any structure, building, antenna, tower, wire, tree or other
obstruction that is taller than 120 feet;
(6) the location of any structure, except fencing, within
fifty feet of the Property line abutting MCAS;
(7) any direct or indirect lighting emitted above the
(8) subdivision of the encumbered Property;
(9) activities of any type that produce smoke, glare or any
visual hazard, except that certain controlled burns are
permitted, but subject to notice requirements and the
Government's authority to deny such activity; and
(10) recreational activities including, but not limited to,
hunting and that are for-profit, require surface alteration
or other development of the land, or that "encourage the
assemblage of groups larger than ten (10) persons."
(Dkt. No. 164 at 6-7; No. 140-1.)
easement expressly permits the following uses subject to the
Government's approval given in the sole discretion of
Navy realty specialist Cassandra Norris:
(1) Agricultural uses provided, however, that crops or
vegetation attractive to birds or waterfowl are prohibited,
as are ...