By Jim Hulen, North Myrtle Beach Onlin.Com
April 12, 2012, North Myrtle Beach, SC - The city of North Myrtle Beach officially started the Cherry Grove dredging project in 2001 when it hired consultant Wade Beam to apply for a permit to dredge the finger channels. That effort quickly wound up in maze of court hearings and appeals. Yesterday the S.C. Supreme Court ruled the marsh land was owned by the state not by a private entity – East Cherry Grove Realty, but it may not be over. East Cherry Grove Realty has 90 days to appeal.
To understand why the ownership is so muddled that a court has to be involved, one needs to understand how Cherry Grove was developed.
Somewhere around the 1940’s to the 1950’s, Cherry Grove, at that time a barrier island, was owned by the Nixon family. They decided to connect the island to the ‘main land’ by closing the inlet near what is now 39th avenue. During that time frame, C.D. Nixon dredged the area to build Venetian-style channels for a resort. He used the dredged sand to fill in Cherry Grove Inlet, making the island larger and changing its look forever. As a result of the landfill, the tide could not circulate around the land. Instead, it began depositing sand and slowly filled up further.
Ownership of the marshland between low and high tide has been claimed in several lawsuits over the years by the Perrone family. They have sued several times to prevent the City of North Myrtle Beach from obtaining a dredging permit based on their claim that the property is private, not public and is owned by them.
Gloria Perrone and her son, Joel, were deeded the property by C.D. Nixon, developer of Cherry Grove shortly before he died at the age of 90.
Dr. ‘Sonny’ Nixon and John Ray sued to set aside the deed, asserting that C. D. Nixon did not have the mental capacity to legally transfer the title. They were acting in accordance with C. D. Nixon’s will, which transferred the bulk of his estate to a corporation that was to be set up by Dr. Nixon and Ray.
A SC Court Special Referee agreed with Nixon and Ray and cleared the way for East Cherry Grove Realty to enter into the legal fray.
The litigation then focused upon a 1961 State of South Carolina suit against the predecessors of East Cherry Grove Realty, LLC which was settled in 1963. The state brought the action to establish state ownership of all tidal lands.
Yesterday’s decision by the State Supreme Court was to affirm the 1963 settlement.