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South Carolina Supreme Court refuses to hear challenge to $35M Charleston cruise terminal

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CHARLESTON, South Carolina — The South Carolina Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to a permit for a contentious $35 million cruise passenger terminal in Charleston.

Conservation, preservation and community groups are opposing a state permit to allow the renovation of an old waterfront warehouse as a new terminal.

The challenge is before the state Court of Appeals, but the South Carolina Ports Authority asked the Supreme Court last month to hear the appeal directly. That would have reduced the time the matter is before the courts.

But in a one-page order handed down last Friday, the high court denied the motion to hear the case. The order did not say why. That means the case goes first to the Court of Appeals, where written arguments have been filed but no date for a hearing has been set.

The Ports Authority announced five years ago it planned to replace its aging cruise terminal with a new one by renovating the warehouse to accommodate an expanded cruise industry in the city.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control in 2012 granted a permit allowing the authority to place five additional clusters of pilings in the water beneath the old warehouse where there are now more than 1,000 clusters.

Administrative Law Judge Ralph K. Anderson upheld the permit last year saying the opponents, who contend the new terminal will hurt property values, the quality of life and increase pollution in Charleston, lacked standing to appeal.

The opponents then appealed to the Court of Appeals.

In documents filed last month, attorneys for the Ports Authority said the planned terminal is the result of years or work and public involvement.

Terminal opponents "were unsuccessful in changing public opinion and governmental support" and so are trying to delay in the courts as long as possible, they argued. They noted any Court of Appeals decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court anyway causing further delays.

But in response an attorney for the terminal opponents noted there is no legal issue of major importance that must now be heard by the Supreme Court.

He added also there is no justification for bypassing the Court of Appeals and indeed there would be no cases for that court to hear if every case that could be appealed went directly to the Supreme Court.

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