Seven months after a Gullah land owner was sued by a Georgia-based builder — and four months after the case made international headlines by drawing high-profile celebrity support — Beaufort County courts have appointed a mediator to resolve the land dispute.
According to a Sept. 18 court document, Bailey Point Investment, LLC and 93-year-old native islander Josephine Wright must enter mediation or arbitration to resolve the February lawsuit filed by the company. The resolution must take place “on or before 300 days” from the Sept. 18 filing date, and both parties can agree to mediation or arbitration as the resolution method.
In mediation, a third party is appointed by the court or selected by the conflicting parties to help negotiate a compromise. In arbitration, the third-party official is called upon to make the final decision themselves.
Should Wright and Bailey Point not agree on a mediator, Beaufort County designated Savannah-based attorney Francesca Macchiaverna as the default mediator. Macchiaverna, a partner in the Hunter Maclean law firm, was certified as a South Carolina mediator in 2013. She is licensed to practice in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina’s state and federal courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Charise Graves, Wright’s granddaughter, said the family and their attorney have not heard from Bailey Point regarding a preferred resolution method.
Wright was sued in February by Bailey Point Investment, after the company claimed a shed and part of Wright’s back porch were encroaching onto 29 acres of land Bailey Point is using to build a 147-home development. The 29-acre plot envelops Wright’s property on all sides, save for the portion of her front yard facing the road.
The Wright family has since relocated the shed and maintains the back porch does not cross their property line, which they say was confirmed by a survey. The family has also stated in court documents they have been subject to “consistent and constant barrage of tactics of intimidation, harassment, and trespass,” including workers coming onto the property to litter and cut the family’s shrubs and tree branches.
Wright suspects the lawsuit and alleged harassment are part of a strategy to force her into selling the property her family has held since shortly after the Civil War. Offers to buy the 1.9 acre property have come in the past, she told The Island Packet previously, including a $39,000 offer in 2018.
County property records currently indicate the 29 acres Bailey Point purchased along Jonesville Road are worth $5.8 million, around $200,000 per acre.
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