Beaufort County residents to decide on 2-year $100M Greenspace tax

Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 11:03 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 8, 2022 at 11:54 PM EDT
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BEAUFORT, S.C. (WCSC) - Beaufort County Council voted Monday night to let voters decide whether to approve a 2-year, one-percent sales tax on the November ballot.

The sales tax would collect up to $100 million to purchase land and conservation easements, and buy down density to slow and prevent development.

The money may also be used to pay off debt from past land purchases, a release from the county states.

“We have a lot of land to preserve within our County to slow growth and preserve our environment,” Beaufort County Chairman Joe Passiment said.

Previous readings of the ordinance set the proposed sales tax at 1% for four years, collecting $300 million.

“I was against LOST last year for many reasons, and it was defeated,” Council Member Logan Cunningham said. “A lot is different between these two referendums. Many of us ran on slowing growth, and we have been using our tools at the County level. Municipalities have been reluctant to support us. This tool gives us direct control. The tax gives us a good direction, has a cap and an end date.”

South Carolina is the tenth-fastest-growing state in the nation, and Beaufort County is the eighth-fastest growing county in the state. The county has continued to experience a high rate of growth during the last decade.

The town of Bluffton in southern Beaufort County in 2001 consisted of one square mile; but the town’s footprint currently exceeds 54 square miles, with 92 percent of the area under planned unit development zoning, and in the past decade, its population increased 156 percent.

The population of the city of Hardeeville in southern Beaufort and Jasper counties has increased 212 percent in the past decade, and the city is processing applications for the development of a 231-acre tract adjacent to the Broad River known as Chelsea South and a 2,200-acre tract at the headwaters of the New River known as Karrh Tract, county leaders say.

A 2018 joint study of Lady’s Island by the city of Beaufort and Beaufort County concluded new measures were needed to manage growth on the island, with the anticipated amount of growth exceeding the capacity of the island’s infrastructure.

“This rapid growth puts environmentally unsustainable pressures on our lands and waters in that the development and the accompanying infrastructure result in the destruction of natural wetlands, marshes, headwaters, and other waterways, thereby hampering the functioning of these systems and eliminating valuable and effective natural storm protection and flood abatement, and fish and wildlife habitat,” the release from Beaufort County states.

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