Mt. Pleasant Academy

The media center at the new Mt. Pleasant Academy Elementary School.

$12 million from sales tax for 13 deals gets council approval

About $12 million from the half-percent sales tax will help protect 3,972 acres in rural areas throughout Charleston County.

The money will be spent on 13 projects to buy land or restrict growth on parcels outside of the urban growth boundary from Edisto Island to McClellanville.

The county saved nearly $800,000 because some proposed projects were further negotiated and approved by the county Greenbelt Bank board just days before they were presented to County Council last week. The council unanimously approved the proposals.

The Edisto Island Open Land Trust reduced its requests to buy conservation easements at Indigo Farms and at Creek Farm off S.C. Highway 174. The group originally asked for $750,000 for each but worked out deals lowering the prices for the easements by $353,160 and $443,084, respectively. Additionally, the land trust could recover half of the cost from the state Conservation Bank and would then reimburse the county.

The Sweetgrass Society, which will get nearly $1.6 million to preserve the history of sweetgrass basket-making and plant sweetgrass, is seeking more funds to match the county greenbelt earmark.

The total amount spent on the 13 projects was $12,047,456. Various governmental entities and nonprofits matched those funds by more than $24 million.

"That's good, to see a 2-to-1 match right out of the gate," County Planning Director Dan Pennick said of the first round of funding. He said some of the deals could be closed by the end of this month, while others awaiting land surveys, state-certified appraisals or title clearance could take longer.

About $55 million remains for rural projects. The deadline for the second wave of funding was Wednesday, and eight proposals were submitted.

The sales tax should raise an estimated $221 million over 25 years to preserve open space and create parks. That half-percent money goes into three pots: for rural land conservation, for parks in urban areas and for new county parks.

The Greenbelt Bank board oversees roughly $70 million of the $95 million borrowed this year to start making large greenbelt buys. The rest of that loan is for urban land. The county Park and Recreation Commission has a separate $36 million to spend for county parks.