Who legally owns the old Loris High School on U.S. 701?
That is now a question a judge will be asked to answer after a vote by Loris City Council during its Feb. 3 meeting.
Council held a nearly 90-minute closed door session -- held while meeting attendees waited outside the American Legion Hall. They were reportedly discussing legal issues concerning the property and whether it is owned by the city or by Nathan Hardwick, also known as Buddy, who lives in Georgia.
After that executive session, Councilman Carroll Padgett made a motion to ask the city attorney to prepare a declaratory judgement action against Hardwick to determine the ownership. The motion passed unanimously.
After the meeting, Padgett was asked why it is not known who owns the property.
“There was an arrangement between the city and owner many many years ago. There were certain requirements contained in that. And a dispute has arisen over who is responsible for cleaning up the property,” Padgett answered. “Once we determine who the owner is, then we can determine what to do thereafter.”
Mayor Todd Harrelson said he does not believe the city has ownership of the site. He said the contract the city had with Hardwick expired many years ago.
He said if it is ruled Hardwick is the legal owner, the city will enforce its ordinances to have the property cleaned.
When asked if that means the old school will be torn down, Harrelson said: “I do not know about that. That will be up to him.”
He said if it is decided it is owned by the city, a study will be conducted to figure out what to do.
The building has been in bad shape for years but was worsened after the flooding from Hurricane Florence in 2018, according to Harrelson.
For many, including Harrelson, the school and property have sentimental value. It was last used as a high school in the late 1980s and was later used as an elementary school, for grades 3-5, while the new Loris Elementary was being built.