South Carolina's highest court on Monday invalidated the Town of James Island's attempt to incorporate into its own municipality, ruling that areas trying to incorporate can't use a public road to connect properties.
The ruling handed down by the state Supreme Court is the third time the justices have thrown out James Island's attempts to incorporate. The island on the edge of Charleston Harbor is a collection of subdivisions, shops and strip malls and home to about 20,000 people in unincorporated areas of Charleston County that fall within proposed town limits. Other areas on the island have been annexed into Charleston.
In challenging a 2006 incorporation vote, the city of Charleston argued that state law allowing the town to use county, state and federal land to connect otherwise unconnected properties is unconstitutional. Longtime Charleston Mayor Joe Riley has said that public policy favors not duplicating services and large sections of the island are already in the Charleston limits.
On Monday the justices agreed with Charleston officials, ruling that, while the law isn't necessarily unconstitutional, it still wasn't proper for an area trying to incorporate to amass properties by connecting them with publicly owned land.
"The mere fact that a law may be irrational does not automatically make it unconstitutional," the court wrote. "The thrust of property being publicly owned is that it be for the benefit of the public, which is not dictated solely by who owns the underlying earth."