A large private island near Folly Beach is up for sale for $15 million, but the next buyer may not be able to do much with it.
At least that's the hope, said Elliott Hutson, of Carolina One Real Estate, who is handling the listing. The current owners of Long Island, which includes about 140 acres of high ground, are hoping to find a buyer willing to put the land under conservation easement.
"We’ve got some serious interest in that," Hutson said. "The stumbling block is getting someone that would hold the easement that is accredited by the IRS."
While a private island near one of the Charleston region's most popular beaches might look ripe for a new subdivision — or perhaps a luxurious private enclave for a wealthy buyer — Long Island is almost entirely undisturbed, with no electricity, water service or roads. It's only accessible by boat.
The island's preservation would also fit well with the city of Folly Beach's recent efforts at stemming development in vulnerable areas, such as the beachfront and back marsh of Folly Island.
As a part of a broad package of land use rules, the city is considering increasing the minimum lot size for islands nestled in the vast section of marsh between Folly and James islands. Development on marsh islands also couldn't cover more than 30 percent of high ground on a parcel with impervious surface.
Long Island also has historic value: on its west end is Star Battery, an earthen fort used by Union forces during the Civil War. The remains of a causeway that leads to nearby Oak Island, dating to that period, is still dry at low tide.
Mayor Tim Goodwin said preserving the island might enable it to be explored further for its archaeological value.
"I think it would be great, personally," Goodwin said.
Folly locals also enjoy paddling out to the island and exploring it, said Eric Draper, another real estate agency in the area.
"It's a true kind of gem of the Lowcountry because, for so long, it's been left to its own devices," Draper said. "It's really a beautiful piece of property."
There have been previous attempts to develop it. In 1999, The Post and Courier reported that a builder wanted to put more than 200 homes there. That proposal hinged on connecting the property with a new bridge from nearby Pea Island, which is a fraction of the size. A year later, state environmental regulators rejected the plan for a bridge.
The current owners, two partners who hold the property under the name K&A Acquisitions, bought the island for $7.5 million in 2005, according to Charleston County property records. They presented their own development plans several times in the years since, but nothing came of them.
Hutson said the owners' goal now is to make sure the land is protected but also to recoup as much of their investment as they can. He said he's exploring public funds through Charleston County's greenbelt program, private donations and other possible ways to pay a price the sellers find reasonable.
"If I can get the worth out of it, then I believe we can protect it," Hutson said. "That’s really what we need to do."
However, it might be an uphill battle to get a conservation organization to bite, at least at the current list price of $15 million. Hutson said that number comes from a private appraisal commissioned by the sellers.
David Ray, chief conservation officer for the Lowcountry Open Land Trust, said that an independent appraisal he had seen was "orders of magnitude" lower than that price, though he declined to say the exact amount.
Though the land does have conservation value for its scenic appeal and ecological worth, he said striking the right arrangement might be tough.
"It's a desirable place for conservation to happen," Ray said. "Every deal requires a meeting of the minds, and that's the challenge here, I think."