Boone Hall Plantation — one of Mount Pleasant's largest undeveloped spaces — is one step closer to being permanently protected.
A key state panel endorsed a $2 million contribution by the State Conservation Bank — an expense that would take most of the bank's current $2.6 million balance.
Michael McShane, vice chair of the bank board, noted the original deal sought $3 million from the bank, but further discussions brought that sum down to $2 million.
Next, Charleston County Council is expected to consider a $5 million contribution from its greenbelt account, money that comes from a half-percent sales tax. The Lowcountry Land Trust would receive the $7 million and buy a conservation easement on the property to ensure it remains undeveloped.
David Ray, the trust's conservation manager, has said the development rights are worth about four times the $7 million in public money being spent.
When the matter went before the state's Joint Bond Review Committee on Tuesday, no one commented on the bargain sale. The committee reviews most large financial moves by the state, including any bank easement expenses of more than $1 million.
The Boone Hall conservation plan will cover about 600 acres along U.S. Highway 17, Long Point Road and Horlbeck Creek. The property, first settled in the late 17th century, is considered one of the nation's oldest continuously operated farms, but it also serves as a historic site, an event venue and a farm attraction.
As many as 1,800 homes could be built there on the property, which sits in an unincorporated part of Charleston County largely surrounded by the town of Mount Pleasant.
Boone Hall was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Its main house was built in the 20th century, but its row of brick slave cabins survive from its antebellum era.
Current owner Willie McRae's family bought the property in 1955. In a recent interview, McRae said, "I plan on being here awhile."