CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — It's been almost four years since the South Carolina Ports Authority announced plans to build a new $35 million passenger cruise terminal by renovating an old warehouse on the Charleston waterfront.
And it's going on three years that the issue of building the terminal has been before the courts. With challenges from environmental, neighborhood and preservation groups ongoing in federal, state and administrative law courts, the debate over the city's year-round cruise industry won't be ending any time soon.
Opponents of the city's expanded cruise industry say they are not opposed to cruises, but want stronger regulations governing the industry. They have challenged both state and federal permits to allow the Ports Authority to install new pilings beneath the warehouse to create the new terminal.
They have also gone to the state Supreme Court arguing that the cruises are a public nuisance causing noise, pollution and traffic congestion in the city's Historic District.
Supporters say cruises will only be a niche market in Charleston — not the major industry witnessed in such places as Venice, Italy, and Key West, Fla. They say the industry is being appropriately handled.
The new year brings court activity on a couple of fronts.
On Jan. 7, a mediator for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond plans to meet with attorneys representing both sides in an appeal in the dispute over a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit for the pilings.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled in September that the Corps did not adequately review the project's effects on the city's historic district, telling attorneys for the Corps "You gave this permit a bum's rush."