|Poplar Grove Developer Respects Profit Over People, Residents Not Having It
6/18/2014 3:37:37 PM
By Barney Blakeney
Most Black residents of the Davidson community have relatives buried in Lowdnes Cemetery at the end of Bulow Road which intersects with the main road through the community. There’s also a boat landing at the end of the road where Blacks and whites who live there have fished for generations. In the past the residents have resisted development that threatened both community resources. That threat has resurfaced. Residents say they will continue their resistance.
The controversy between the residents and the developer is another example of how development around the Lowcountry sometimes places profits before people, said Hollywood Rep. Robert Brown who represents S.C. House Dist. 116 and the Davidson community.
Bulow Road also is the site of the new Poplar Grove housing subdivision. Its developer, Vic Mills, is beginning the next phase of construction for the development. A swimming pool and clubhouse are planned for construction directly in front of the cemetery that will be surrounded by residential development on the Rantowles Creek waterfront.
Davidson residents want to coexist with the development that is changing their once isolated rural community. They even will coexist with the disrespect developers show for their sacred burial grounds. But the developer also wants to put up a gate across Bulow Road that will prevent them from going to the cemetery and the boat landing. Residents say the gate is illegal. The developer has ignored that and started to build infrastructure on the road.
Charleston County has maintained Bulow Road and Lowdnes Boat Landing since the 1950s. The residents, who have buried their dead in Lowndes Cemetery for over 100 years, hold the deed and title to the burial grounds and the county maintains the boat landing is public through an easement agreement.
Brown said the newest phase of the Poplar Grove development is typical of some that completely disregards the heritage and culture of those who live in the communities where they locate. Especially waterfront communities, Brown said. The earliest recognizable gravestones in Lowdnes Cemetery date back to 1917, but others are older.
Emma Frazier whose late brother, Willie Frazier, before his death organized a cemetery committee to preserve Lowdnes Cemetery said her brother, aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents all are buried in the cemetery.
The Atlanta, Ga. resident said she too likely will be buried there with the rest of her family. Most residents of the community have relatives buried there. Some current residents contribute to a fund for their future burial in the cemetery, she said.
The developer’s effort to illegally close off the road in an attempt to create a gated community not only ignores public rights, but takes away their heritage and link to the past, Frazier said.
Cemetery committee member Theresa Gibson asked how Mills could just come in and take everything from people who have been in and around the former Lowdnes rice plantation for generations. She hopes Lowndes Cemetery won’t end up like others in Mount Pleasant, Beaufort and Hilton Head Island. Brown promises that won’t happen.
He’s led opposition that so far has resulted in a Charleston County work stop order on the gate. He promises to take the issue to the courts if necessary. Privatizing the road takes away public resources, he said.
“Developers who come into these communities should be trying to help them, not deny them their resources. As long as I’m their representative, that’s not going to happen because there will be a fight. This is an example of how some bad developers are all about profits. Certainly not all develpoers are bad, but some are willing to disrespect people and their communities. We think our voices are more powerful than their money,” Brown said.