The recession may be thawing for builders, but are residents ready for it?

Rumors of plans for 5,000 new houses in largely rural western Charleston County packed council chambers for a town meeting Thursday night. About 75 people filled the seats and crowded the walls of a space not much bigger than a residential great room.

After several years of inactivity, the developers of Poplar Grove want to expand. The new houses would be built on 750 acres in Charleston County, across County Line Road from the existing houses in Poplar Grove. Hollywood would annex the property and provide sewer service. The city of Charleston would provide water.

The town’s proposed zoning would allow seven houses per acre, compared to the county’s zoning of one house for every 25 acres. But that doesn’t mean thousands of houses would be built there, not by a long shot, developer Vic Mills told the crowd

“There is a lot of misinformation that has been passed around,” he said.

Mills said he would have to sell 500 lots to pay for the infrastructure. On the other hand, the town only has sewer capacity for another 1,000 houses, so that’s the maximum that could be built. But the final number will probably be closer to 500, since that would more closely match the character of Poplar Grove, he assured the crowd.

The town’s zoning would allow some of the houses to be clustered on smaller lots, he said. All the houses would be single-family.

Many remained skeptical. Some pointed out that Mills’ original plan for Poplar Grove included up to 3,500 houses on 4,500 acres, and that’s the plan Dorchester County approved. The density decreased when conservation groups came up with $10 million to put large swaths of land under easement.

Others objected to the extra traffic.

“Hollywood to me is like Mayberry,” Stan Marcinkowski of Ravenel said. “Keep it like Mayberry.”

State Rep. Robert Brown, a Democrat who lives in Hollywood, said it wasn’t right to promise a good chunk of the town’s remaining sewer capacity to a new development when many low-income residents have been waiting for sewer service for years.

“The town of Hollywood needs affordable housing,” he said after the meeting.

Mills said he will donate $1,000 from every lot sold to Neighbors Helping Neighbors, which helps low-income residents get housing and sewer service.

Council will schedule two public hearings before voting whether to accept the development agreement.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or follow him on twitter @dmunday.