CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) —The South Carolina NAACP filed a complaint with the federal highway administration requesting an investigation of the Conway perimeter road project.
The NAACP says the project will displace elderly Black residents from land they grew up on and inherited from their ancestors since the 1800s.
The project will connect Highways 378 and 701 with a four-lane road and median, the proposed road will cut through Sandridge park.
Nathan Lee and Justin McCarrol are student advocates at the NYU law civil rights clinic.
”It will curve directly through the entire Sandridge community displacing I think six people, six homes fully displaced. And what’s not being accounted for on top of that is the people who will now be living with a four-lane road that didn’t displace them but is now what used to be their backyard, ” McCarrol said.
Before the South Carolina NAACP sent a complaint letter to the federal highway administration, the NYU clinical law center sent a demand letter to Horry County and the South Carolina Transportation Department stating the Conway perimeter road project violates Title VI of the civil rights act of 1964 because it will unfairly and unnecessarily impact the black community in Sandridge.
Title VI states that “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
The NYU clinical law center said even though the Ride III Sales Tax Commission funds this project, the Conway Perimeter Road Project is still subject to Title VI because of Horry County’s partnership with SCDOT. SCDOT is a South Carolina state agency and uses federal funding for transportation infrastructure development.
NYU clinical law center students said the SCDOT and Horry County denied the claims made against them.
“The problem is, it’s only impacting those black folks, not only is it a black community, but it also happens to be going directly through this sort of census block in Horry County that has the highest concentration of black residents, and as well as the highest concentration of impoverished residents,” McCarrol said.
The Sandridge community was first settled by freed black people who were sharecroppers, the area is now a cluster of homes, and the most affected area would be dirty branch road. Lee said some residents living along dirty branch road have been told the project will help people help get tourists to the beach quicker and others have been told the project will relieve local traffic congestion.
“I think there is a lot of confusion regarding who is responsible for the road who can be held accountable. This came about because of ride three, which was a penny tax that I guess the county voted on. At the time they had not decided the location of the road and so residents are also frustrated, because they said I wouldn’t have voted for the road if I knew if it meant that my home would be destroyed,” Lee said.
McCarrol said most of the community are against the road being built, but if that is not a possibility, they the SCDOT and Horry County to preserve their dignity.
“Apart of that means working with the community to solve this problem and find ways to mitigate the harms that they have acknowledged, exist, but haven’t done anything about. They’ve gone as far as to acknowledging that this road is going through a census block that is mostly black, and mostly very low income. They haven’t done anything about that, though, “ McCarrol said.
News 13 reached out to Horry County and the SCDOT, they both suggested reaching out to the Federal Highway Administration.
The Federal Highway Administration has not yet responded.