Groups sue over Charleston cruise terminal permit
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Environmental and preservation groups filed a federal lawsuit Monday challenging plans for a $35 million cruise terminal in South Carolina and asking a federal judge to invalidate a permit for the project.
The Preservation Society of Charleston and the Coastal Conservation League argue in the lawsuit that there should be more federal review to show how the historic city could be affected by expanding the cruise ship industry. The groups say the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unlawfully issued a permit allowing the State Ports Authority to classify the project as "maintenance."
"As the Corps was aware, a new $35 million, 100,000-square-foot cruise terminal and its operations would affect neighboring listed historic properties in downtown Charleston — perhaps the best preserved historic area in the nation ...," attorneys for the groups wrote in their complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. "Second, a project with the explicit aim of converting a defunct cargo warehouse into a modern passenger cruise terminal is not 'maintenance.'"
The National Trust for Historic Preservation last year put Charleston on "watch status," saying it could make the organization's list of endangered places because of threats from the growing cruise industry. In the past, Charleston hosted only a handful of seasonal cruises. But Carnival Corp. permanently based its 2,056 passenger cruise liner Fantasy in Charleston two years ago, giving the city a year-round business.
An attorney for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not immediately return a message seeking comment Monday.
The groups have also sued Carnival Cruise Lines in state court. That lawsuit alleges, among other things, that the cruise liners are a public nuisance, violate city height ordinances and amount to illegal hotel operations. It asks the courts to block cruise operations and declare it illegal for the State Ports Authority to create the new $35 million cruise terminal at Union Pier.
Charleston and the Ports Authority have joined Carnival in asking the lawsuit be dismissed, contending that the city waterfront has been a seaport far longer than the city has had zoning laws.
South Carolina's Supreme Court agreed last January to hear the state case without it first winding through the lower courts and appointed a state court judge to act as a special referee and make recommendations. That lawsuit is still ongoing.
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