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Aug 31 2009

Op-ed: Opportunity Presents Itself

by Lorna Hattler

As I was driving down Bohicket Road on Johns Island yesterday I noticed a sign on the side of the road near the Angel Oak. The sign was posted on the property owned by the Angel Oak Village developers by the County of Charleston and read:

Delinquent Tax Sale

“This property is seized by the Delinquent Tax Collector of Charleston County to be sold on October 5, 2009.”

My first thought was what a wonderful opportunity this is for the City of Charleston to buy this property at auction using the Green Belt money. Mayor Riley has said he wants this property to be green space and this is the way the City of Charleston became the owner of the Angel Oak in the first place, failure of the owner at that time to pay property taxes. There has been a lot of talk about using the property for a Gullah interpretive center to attract more visitors to the Angel Oak and the Angel Oak would attract visitors to the interpretive center. The two attractions would complement each other beautifully and a center such as this would provide a much needed learning experience for both adults and school children. The forest that surrounds the Angel Oak would be preserved for the majestic oak. It would be a win/win situation.

My second thought was not as nice. The developers did not pay the taxes on this property last year until the 11th hour, only a few days before the auction date. They kept the tax money for their own use or investment therefore earning more money for themselves. Whatever use or interest they earned more than covered the late fees they incurred. Are they playing money games or can they truly not afford the taxes? What if we all didn’t pay our taxes when they came due? It sure would put Charleston in a financial bind and generate more expenses in paperwork, postage for mailing late notices and additional employees to handle the heavier workload.

Whether the developer cannot afford the taxes or is playing financial games with us, I don’t think this is the type of neighbor or business operator we need on Johns Island.

Lorna Hattler

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