Council OKs $20M park land deal

Charleston County Council approved a $20 million land purchase for parks and recreation in Mount Pleasant on Thursday, removing the last regulatory hurdle for the pricey real estate deal.

The town and Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission are splitting the cost, and each are using the last of their remaining funding from the county's half-cent sales tax for transportation and green space projects.

With the council's approval of the deal, the town and the PRC hope to complete the purchase by the end of this month. The town expects to use part of the 245 acres on Rifle Range Road near Hamlin Road for baseball fields and recreational activities, and the PRC would use a portion as a future park site. Councilman Paul Thurmond abstained from the vote.

The PRC owns and operates Palmetto Islands County Park, a short drive from the new park site, and operates the pier at the town's new Waterfront Memorial Park.

Mount Pleasant Town Council and the PRC commissioners previously approved the Rifle Range Road land deal.

Mount Pleasant developer William J. Sheppard III controls Heart of the Town LLC, town officials have said. Sheppard recently withdrew a long-contested plan that County Council had been considering to create a construction-waste landfill in Adams Run.

While Heart of the Town LLC is listed as the seller, the owner of 65 acres of the 245-acre parcel is identified in county online land records as Restile LLC. It is a group of local investors comprised of Blackbaud Inc. founder Tony Bakker and former Blackbaud executives Gary Thornhill, Nigel Cooper and Tim Smith.

Requests for comment from the sellers of the land have been unsuccessful.

The $20 million purchase will use about $5 million in half-cent sales tax funds controlled by the town and more than $8 million in half-cent funds controlled by the PRC. The rest of the money will come from town and PRC funds.

Appraisals of the land have put its value between $8 million and $30 million.

Mount Pleasant and PRC officials have said it has been hard to find affordable land in Mount Pleasant, and that they are comfortable with the price.

Thursday marked the last scheduled County Council meeting for members Curtis Inabinett and Paul Thurmond. Both were thanked for their service by fellow members of council.

Inabinett, who has represented District 8, and Thurmond, who has represented District 9, were each elected to six-year terms in 2004 and did not seek re-election this year. Their seats will be filled, respectively, by Joe Qualey and Anna Johnson, who will be sworn in next month.