A developer’s unusual $1.5 million offer has prompted Town Council to tentatively approve a contract assuring that building permits would be issued for a 330-home development on Rifle Range Road.

Developer Stefan Hoyer sought the contract, known as a development agreement, because Town Council has been discussing potential limits on residential construction permits, and narrowly voted down a moratorium on residential construction in June. The town is also talking about raising impact fees.

The Liberty Hill Farm development, previously called Palmetto Fort, wouldn’t need special zoning or any concessions from the town in order to build — both reasons why a development contract might normally be negotiated.

Hoyer’s company offered the town $1.5 million toward the cost of building a long-planned road connecting Rifle Range Road to a planned extension of Billy Swails Boulevard and eventually to Long Point Road. The road would run through the town’s planned 20-acre park on Rifle Range.

The developer also offered $200,000 for improvements on Rifle Range Road, a 7-acre land donation for Palmetto Fort Park, and plans to build a public trail system linking the marsh and Palmetto Fort Park to the town’s large new park on Rifle Range.

Councilman Joe Bustos said that wasn’t enough to make it a good deal, and he said the traffic from the development is “going to choke Rifle Range Road.”

He said the developer “needs to build that road — not contribute to it.”

But two council members who typically vote to restrain development, Jim Owens and Gary Santos, found the proposal attractive. Santos said if the property remained outside the town limits and were developed in Charleston County — which already has approved the site for 274 houses — the town would get the traffic without the financial benefits.

Owens, who has been firmly in the anti-development Save Shem Creek faction on Town Council, said the developer’s offer was too good to turn away.

“The developer, providing $1.5 million for this road, to help the town — I think it’s unprecedented,” he said. “I just don’t think the town can pass on the $1.5 plus the (property) taxes plus the impact fees.”

Gray Taylor, a lawyer representing the developer, said traffic studies have shown that the development would not reduce the level of service on Rifle Range Road.

Town Council approved the annexation and zoning of the 209-acre property, and voted 7-2 to approve the development agreement. Bustos and Councilman Will Haynie opposed the deal.

In other business, things got heated as council members discussed whether to temporarily halt the subdivision of lots in the Old Village and Old Mount Pleasant — between Coleman and Ben Sawyer boulevards, Shem Creek, and the harbor — for six months. Supporters of the moratorium, led by Bustos, said it was needed to study stormwater issues in the area, related to the increasing number of homes.

Opponents said the stormwater issue was just a ruse to restrain development.

Councilman Elton Carrier, a retired banker, called the plan “an attack on personal property rights” and accused Bustos of being “anti-American.”

Bustos replied: “I was in the Army for 24 years, what did you do?”

Bustos and Haynie said long-time residents’ property rights are harmed when people tear down homes, subdivide the property, and build more and larger homes that cause problems including flooding and a loss of privacy.

The council voted 5-4 to tentatively approve the moratorium, with Carrier, Mayor Linda Page, and councilmen Mark Smith and Paul Gawrych in the opposition. Bustos, Haynie, Owens, Santos and Councilman Bob Brimmer were in the majority.

Reach David Slade at (843) 937-5552 or twitter.com/DSladeNews.