Property Rights Victory for South Carolina Entrepreneurs!

Seth Young
Seth Young
 ·  April 1, 2023

In a swift victory for property rights, IJ client Jeremy Sark will be able to keep his U-Haul business open now that the city of Mauldin, South Carolina, has amended its zoning code in response to IJ’s lawsuit on Jeremy’s behalf.  

As Liberty & Law readers may remember from the December issue, the Mauldin City Council passed an ordinance in early 2021 forcing all truck- and trailer-rental businesses outside a specific zone to close by the end of 2022, simply because a private developer who city officials were trying to attract said U-Haul businesses made the town look “old.” Had the ordinance gone into effect, Jeremy and his business partner, Marie Dougherty, would have had to close the U-Haul portion of their business, Sark’s Automotive. That would have cost the pair over $50,000 a year in lost U-Haul revenue and other car repair revenue that U-Haul rentals brought in, forcing them to lay off up to two full-time employees. 

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The city argued it could do this, without any compensation, through “amortization,” an increasingly common practice in which local governments force safe preexisting uses of property to cease after a period of time, reasoning that simply giving property owners advance notice and a chance to continue earning money in the meantime satisfies the constitutional requirement of just compensation. But as IJ’s lawsuit explained, when Mauldin rezoned, both the South Carolina Constitution and South Carolina Supreme Court precedent required the city to grandfather in all safe preexisting uses of property that became nonconforming. 

Realizing that Jeremy and Marie were now backed by IJ’s 30 years of experience winning property rights cases, the city of Mauldin entered into talks with IJ attorneys on how to fix the unconstitutional ordinance. The result is an amended ordinance that allows truck and trailer rentals to continue in the zone where Sark’s Automotive is located with only minor aesthetic restrictions. Which means that—thanks to IJ’s lawsuit—Jeremy and Marie can continue running their almost decade-old U-Haul business without fear of losing revenue or having to lay off any of their valuable employees.

Seth Young is an IJ attorney. 

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