The St. James Plantation Property Owners’ Association is contemplating changing its name to address any negative connotations associated with the word “plantation.”
The term may be defined as estates where crops are cultivated – but historically, many were labored by slaves.
In the present day, the word is often seen on signs near gated entries to neighborhoods, commonly along the coast, in an effort to evoke elegance and Southern charm.
Recent outcries to remove “plantation” from the names of neighborhoods across the country emerged in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and the social justice movement that has followed. Some of the most notable developments facing pressure to rename themselves are located on Hilton Head Island, including Palmetto Hall Plantation and Wexford Plantation. Now, St. James has joined the list.
“We are living in a gated community in coastal North Carolina far from the larger population centers. However, the cultural upheaval that has impacted the rest of the nation has also arrived here,” the St. James Plantation POA Board of Directors wrote in an email to residents.
In the message, the board describes how in recent weeks, the POA has received “numerous” letters and emails, some requesting it drop the word and others supporting its retention. The board met several times over the past month to discuss its options.
“Rather than trying to please a few, we decided to put it to a vote,” said Jerry Iverson, president of the POA board.
Property owners will be able to vote on the matter through a mail-in ballot around the time of the October 17 members’ meeting which will be held virtually this year due to COVID-19. The annual event is when members vote on changes to the founding documents and elect candidates to open board seats.
To legally change the name, the POA must modify two of its documents: The Article of Incorporation (AOI) and the Master Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (MD).
“We are following the procedures and the process set out in those documents to find out if people really want a change,” Iverson said. “It’s something the board can’t do unilaterally.”
The initial vote in October will address a change only to the AOI, the document that establishes the name of the St. James Plantation POA. Amending the AOI calls for two-thirds of voters favoring a change.
Modifications to the MD are more stringent, the board said, requiring a 75% vote of each type of membership. Depending on the result, the board would pursue alternatives for updating the MD, which confirms the name established in the AOI.
The community could either drop the word “plantation,” or call the development by an entirely new name, possibly one that distinguishes it from the Town of St. James, Iverson suggested.
“Quite frankly, the board is neutral on this,” he said. “We don’t have a position one way or the other.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, St. James is nearly 100% white. The population in 2018 was reported at 5,814 residents.