Ideally, Charleston County Greenbelt funds should preserve the greatest amount of land in the most impactful places at the greatest value to county taxpayers. Boone Hall Plantation would seem to fit that description perfectly.
According to a report from The Post and Courier’s David Slade, all or part of the 618-acre property could be up for consideration this week as one of the projects for investment under the urban portion of the Greenbelt’s 50-50 urban-rural funding split.
So far, we don’t know the asking price or the specifics of the preservation plan. The upcoming project selection round apparently involves six proposals from across the county at a total cost of $13 million. Given that only $8 million is in the budget, some projects won’t make the cut this time around.
But Boone Hall merits a very serious look.
The property is a massive, partially wooded oasis on what not so long ago was seen as the far northern end of Mount Pleasant but what could now be considered the heart of town.
It’s part working farm, part historic site and part space for a variety of community events.
Although technically in unincorporated Charleston County rather than Mount Pleasant, Boone Hall is one of only a few large undeveloped parcels inside a town that is quickly reaching “build out,” or the point at which nearly everything has been built that can be built under existing rules.
Hypothetically, the site could one day be carved up for as many as 1,800 homes. Recently, it was caught up in a controversial and eventually rejected plan to extend Long Point Road across Highway 17 by cutting through a corner of the plantation’s property.
And misguided plans to develop Gippy Plantation in Berkeley County and the edge of the plantation district in West Ashley suggest that local officials should never assume that historic or otherwise invaluable locales are inherently untouchable.
It’s far more effective to plan for the future of such important pieces of property now — by putting a conservation easement on Boone Hall, for example — than to rush to save them when development plans are already in the works. By then, it is often too late.
We were disappointed that Charleston County Council voted last year to readjust the Greenbelt program funding split to put more money toward urban projects and less toward rural preservation.
Generally, this tends to result in less land preserved for the same amount of money, and less substantial protection against growth in previously undeveloped parts of the county. Boone Hall, however, is a welcome exception.
It’s still unclear how much acreage would be preserved under a Greenbelt agreement for the plantation, but it would almost certainly be a bargain.
The other projects up for Greenbelt board consideration — a park on the waterfront on James Island, a shrimp boat dock in Mount Pleasant, and others — have plenty of potential value for Charleston County as well.
But in terms of bang for the Greenbelt buck, Boone Hall offers an opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up.