South Congaree postpones business license appeal hearing after landlord’s house fire

South Congaree landlord's home catches fire days after WIS investigation.
South Congaree landlord's home catches fire days after WIS investigation.(Chris Joseph)
Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 4:22 PM EDT
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SOUTH CONGAREE, S.C. (WIS) - The future of four mobile home parks in South Congaree will have to wait two more weeks.

The South Congaree Town Council postponed an appeal hearing for landlord Naomi Halter after Halter’s home caught fire Sunday morning.

Lexington County Fire Services reported Halter was not injured and the South Congaree Police Chief Josh Shumpert confirmed there is a criminal investigation.

The hearing was originally scheduled for Oct. 18 but has been rescheduled for Nov. 1.

The town revoked Halter’s four business licenses for the parks in August over violating town ordinances and being a drain on municipal resources.

An Aug. 25 letter from Halter’s attorney Bryn Sarvis to the South Congaree Town Clerk shows the town served Halter with a notice of her business license revocation on Aug. 24 for failing to remove older mobile homes “marked for removal by the town.”

In the letter, Sarvis explained Halter attempted to remove and donate the homes. However, Sarvis reported interested charities backed out and a removal company spiked the price of the removal. She wrote in part:

At the time of the hearing, the removal had already commenced, and Ms. Halter’s understanding was that the removal company would be continuing, weather permitting, from day to day until the removal was complete.

Members of law enforcement have acknowledged that she has made other improvements to the park, including cleanup of the dumpster areas…

She also touted the service Halter provides:

For years, Ms. Halter has provided low-income housing for minorities and other marginalized groups. The Town has made clear during these proceedings that these folks are unwelcome. However, there is a housing shortage, and we question whether the Town has thought through the impact of this number of suddenly homeless individuals if this license is revoked. Ms. Halter has diligently attempted to provide this housing, having grown up “dirt poor” herself…

Sarvis said Halter is “attempting to cooperate” with the town and adhere to the ordinances.

WIS aired an investigation into properties Halter owns on Oct. 13, days before the fire.

During visits to the properties in September, WIS found roaches and leaking wastewater.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control confirmed Halter made repairs to the wastewater issues WIS identified after months of back and forth with the agency.

However, a court proceeding on Oct. 14 found Halter in contempt of court for failing to address the roaches. The same day, the Lexington County magistrate gave Halter a pathway to evict two tenants WIS interviewed over unpaid rent.

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