Warsaw Island man who barred neighbors from road, ramp ordered to allow surveyors on property
By MINDY LUCAS
Beaufort County man who barred his neighbors from using a road and boat ramp, historically used by those in the area’s Gullah-Geechee community, has been ordered by a court to allow the property to be surveyed.
Ruben Adams of Warsaw Island was ordered by Judge Marvin Dukes, on Monday, Nov. 18, to allow a surveyor onto a 30-foot road that’s at the heart of a class-action lawsuit and separate lawsuit with a neighbor, Charles Gardner.
The decision comes after a previous hearing in front of Dukes in September to determine if Adams was in contempt of an injunction when, in July, he began digging up the road to install a septic system.
Adams is restricted from building any permanent structures on the property that would make the road impassable while both parties await a decision on an appeal, now in the hands of South Carolina’s Court of Appeals.
While Dukes did not find Adams in contempt at the Sept. 11 hearing, he voiced his displeasure with Adams’ recent actions.
“I had hoped and assumed that Mr. Adams wouldn’t do anything with the road, he would leave it completely alone, and y’all would wait to get the ruling,” Dukes said. “And so I am not happy with Mr. Adams for doing this without conferring with counsel.”
The order to allow surveying also follows a protracted legal battle to determine who actually owns the property and what rights, if any, do those who have used the ramp at the end of the road on the northeast side of the island have. Both Adams and Gardner maintain the property belongs to them and have gone to court over it.
In June of 2018, Judge Perry M. Buckner III of the 14th Judicial Circuit, handed down a partial summary judgment finding the road, the boat ramp and the roughly one-acre strip to the south of the road belonged to Adams, despite a 1990 Quiet Title action which stated the road separates the respective portions of the lot owned then by Gardner’s father and the previous owner of the strip.
For multiple generations, the ramp has been used by many in the tight-knit community to fish or access other sea islands in the area. But all that changed after Adams put up a gate blocking the road and angering many in the community who use the ramp to access Jenkins Creek.
They say the road and ramp’s closure has impacted their livelihoods, which prompted a class-action suit filed earlier this year.
After the gate went up, Gardner too was blocked from using the road, which, at the time, was the only way to access a driveway leading to his house. Gardner, who is 76, was forced to cut a new road through a wooded area off a side road, which he did with the help of neighbors.
Meanwhile, both the road and ramp continue to remain closed to the community while Gardner’s appeal, still out for consideration, is decided.
To prepare for the appeal, Gardner attempted to have his property surveyed in 2018. However, Adams asked the surveyor to leave the portion along the road before the work could be completed. Dukes’ decision on Monday will effectively allow that work to be completed.