County preserves 1,000 acres, including 92 acres at Penn Center

The following is a press release from Beaufort County:

Beaufort County Council saved three valuable parcels of agricultural land on St. Helena Island from future development through the County’s Rural and Critical Land Preservation Program at prices well below appraised values.

Council unanimously approved the purchase of conservation easements on a parcel near the Penn Center campus and others at Orange Grove Plantation and Eddings Creek.

The Penn Center parcel is owned by Penn and totals 92-acres, It is used for hay production and livestock grazing. It lies near the site of the future Beaufort County library and, if developed, could have accommodated 30 homes.  The total cost of the easement was $484,500 with half the money coming from the County and the other half from the US Department of Agriculture. The cost represents 75% of the $646,500 appraised value.

The 801-acre property, owned by the Trask family at Orange Grove Plantation lies partially on Wallace Creek and is the largest remaining agricultural operation on St. Helena Island.  The total cost of the easement is $3.75 million and has an appraisal value between $7.5 and $8 million. The County agreed to pay $1.25 million or twenty-five percent. The USDA will pay half the cost and the landowner will pay the remaining 25-percent.  If developed, the property could have accommodated 200 homes.

The 28.3 acre Eddings Creek property, owned by Tree Hope Investments and Robert Sample, will cost the County $206,625. Again, the USDA will pay 50-percent of the total cost which is $409,250 -- less than half of the $987,000 appraised value. The easement will protect the headwaters of Eddings Creek by serving as a buffer against a large-scale agricultural operation nearby. It will allow for construction of 2 homes and 1 dock but would retire 20 home sites and 1 dock permit.

 It also lies adjacent to Henry Farm, where 300-acres were protected last June through the County’s land preservation program.

All three parcels are located in district 5, represented by Beaufort County Councilman William McBride. “St. Helena Island is a beautiful, special place. We love our rural landscape, culture and history and strive to protect it. The conservation easements will ensure that these properties remain forever undeveloped and will protect their traditional agricultural uses.”

The acquisitions were negotiated by the County’s land purchasing partner, the non-profit organization, Beaufort County Open Land Trust.