Boone Hall will always be Boone Hall.
That’s the expected outcome of a Charleston County Council vote on Tuesday to finalize a deal to protect that iconic 710-acre Mount Pleasant property with Greenbelt funds. The county Finance Committee approved the plan unanimously last week.
And it would be a huge victory for preservation in the Charleston region, for a priceless piece of Lowcountry history, for those concerned about overdevelopment, for those who value local food and open space, and for Charleston County and South Carolina taxpayers.
The latter are getting something of a steal. Charleston County will spend about $5 million in Greenbelt money along with $2 million from the state Conservation Bank. That’s not chump change but it pales in comparison to the value of such a large, centrally located piece of land were it to be developed into something other than a historic plantation and working farm.
And eventually, it’s all too likely that would have occurred.
Mount Pleasant, which has been one of the fastest growing communities in the country for several years now, is approaching build-out, or the point at which all of the developable land has been developed.
The ideal thing to do at that point would be to reassess underutilized properties in the town’s core and gradually add infill. Doing so would bring both economic and environmental benefits by boosting the productivity of existing properties without having to clear-cut otherwise untouched green space to make room for new development.
But even with a smart approach to infill, it’s likely that Mount Pleasant will face more and more pressure to open new land to development, and an obvious candidate would have been Boone Hall.
The plantation’s current owners clearly aren’t interested in seeing it turned into just another new neighborhood. They’re forgoing a small fortune to take a reasonable deal with Charleston County and the state Conservation Bank. That’s a great thing.
But just because Boone Hall wasn’t likely to be developed in the immediate future doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be tempting a few decades down the road.
And that’s the kind of strategic thinking that needs to happen more often for the Greenbelt program and for city and county planning efforts in the region.
Once a developer makes a request to build something on land they own, it’s already too late to give a definitive “no.” City and county officials can work to make the plans as beneficial as possible to the larger community. Zoning codes can be strictly enforced. But something is likely to get built.
That’s why it’s so important to work to preserve areas — either directly via conservation efforts or through appropriate zoning — that shouldn’t be developed long before a new neighborhood or shopping center is on the drawing board.
The Charleston area has a wealth of places worth protecting. Fortunately, Charleston County Council has the chance on Tuesday to finalize a deal that would save a particularly nice one, so Boone Hall can always be Boone Hall.