Charleston County will take the next steps toward a controversial financing plan for improvements to the Beach Co.’s Kiawah River Plantation development on Johns Island, a proposal a local environmental leader called a big subsidy for a developer.

The plan calls for creating what is known as a tax-increment financing district for the property, which sits near Mullet Hall on Johns Island. Under that plan, improvements, such as a wastewater treatment facility, for the development would be paid for by future tax revenue generated by the development.

Kevin O’Neill, vice president of development for the company’s subsidiary Beach Development, said the 2,000-acre development should get the relief a special district would bring because it would promote jobs and tourism in the area. But Megan Derosiers, associate director with the Coastal Conservation League, said her group is opposed to creating the district. “It’s a big fat county subsidy for a developer on Johns Island,” she said.

County Council voted 8-1 Tuesday to have the county administrator negotiate an agreement with the developer; the legal department prepare an ordinance that would allow the special district; and a third-party review a proposed wastewater treatment and pump station for the development. Only councilman Dickie Schweers was opposed.

The results of all of those actions will be brought to County Council for final approval, county planning director Dan Pennick said. The proposed development includes homes, cottages and a hotel, as well as commercial and recreational space.

Pennick said developers have a right to request that such districts be created. The county now is considering the company’s request, he said. The county also had a study completed, which the developer paid for, he said. It found that creating the district is “feasible, justifiable and makes sense,” he said.

O’Neill said the development likely would generate $84.5 million in bonding capacity over the next 45 years.

Derosiers said tax-increment financing originally was developed to improve blighted urban areas, where infrastructure already exists. She doesn’t think the method is effective in rural areas.

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.