Thousands of acres are slated to be dropped from Dorchester County's Ashley River Historic Overlay District.

It's the only way to get the ordinance passed after complaints from rural residents in the southern part of the district changed the votes of two council members, key supporters of the ordinance said Thursday.

The ordinance was designed to prevent high-density subdivisions on more than 30,000 wooded acres near the historic plantations along S.C. Highway 61. It's been debated for more than 2 1/2 years. Five of the seven council members said they would vote for final approval on Monday.

Two council members changed their minds after a group of rural residents who live along County Line Road complained. The ordinance would restrict building in their part of the district to one house per acre. Residents said they were concerned the zoning change would keep them from passing their property down to their children and would increase their property taxes.

Residents met with council members Monday to discuss their concerns. Councilmen Willie Davis and Kenny Waggoner said they would only support the ordinance if the southern part of the district was excluded, Council Chairman Larry Hargett said.

That part of the district, called District 3, extends from the northern border of the Poplar Grove development on the east to S.C. Highway 165 on the west. It includes hundreds of small parcels, many of them heirs property.

District 3 also includes several larger tracts, including 1,100 acres owned by the McLeod family, 315 acres owned by the Cordray family, at least part of a 3,000-acre tract owned by MeadWestvaco and the Poplar Grove development.

The borders of the MeadWestvaco tract are still being debated. Poplar Grove is set for 450 houses on 4,500 acres.

An amendment to exclude District 3 will be introduced at Monday's council meeting, Hargett said. He and Councilman Richard Rosebrock, who has also been pushing for the ordinance, said they expect the amendment to pass.

All the members of the planning commission who were at a meeting Thursday said they would also support the amendment when it comes before them.

The amendment will delay final passage of the ordinance until next month, Hargett said.