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The planning and preparation for the future development of Cainhoy Plantation has been under the microscope for nearly three decades and now the time has come to put the plan into action. The owners of the historic 9,000-acre Cainhoy Plantation announced last week their intention to conserve approximately half of the property, upon successfully completing all their required environmental studies permit application. The designated area of the scenic wetlands is said to be nearly the size of the Charleston peninsula, making the allotment one of the largest conservations of land within Charleston’s city limits.

The seed was first planted by former Mayor Joe Riley in the 90’s with a vision of what Cainhoy could potentially become. In 2014 the present-day owners received approval from the City of Charleston for rezoning by way of the Cainhoy Planned Unit Development Master Plan. Recent conservatory efforts put forth by the owners in December 2017 have led up to the brink of breaking ground on the property.

In 1971 the plantation’s previous owner, the late Harry Frank Guggenheim, relinquished the grandiose plot of land to his cousin, Peter Lawson-Johnston Sr. which he and family still hold in possession. Today, the Daniel Island Development Company is the entity in charge of managing the property’s development and Lord Berkeley Conservation Trust (LBCT) will monitor the cumulative protected lands on an annual basis to ensure compliance with the various restrictive covenants.

The Plan:

The Cainhoy Planned Unit Development Master Plan agreement with the City of Charleston states that the primary goal is “to promote a sensible development pattern and to create a sustainable community that embraces the Lowcountry natural heritage by providing connectivity of habitat, minimizing impacts of development on natural resources and ecological processes, and employing strategies to enhance co-mingling of human habitat and wildlife habitat.”

“As we work through our permitting process the early indicators are that people are very receptive to what we are giving back to the community,” Sloan said.

Under the Master Plan will consist a 100-plus acre buffer that will be placed along Cainhoy Road, across from the Francis Marion National Forest, to create a healthy divide between nature and industrialization. Another 3,500 acres of marshland, highlands, wetlands, and upland buffers will be placed under restrictive covenants and conveyed by foresters on a frequent basis. Less than 5 percent of the wetlands on the property will be impacted. Those impacts will be predominantly for crossings, according to Daniel Island Development Company.

Also there will be a 500-acre “gem of natural habitat” known as the Point Hope Nature Sanctuary that will be professionally managed to promote habitat for a variety of important wildlife and plant species, such as bald eagles, red-cockaded woodpeckers, gopher frogs and longleaf pine, and will be protected with a conservation easement held by LBCT. In addition, 1,000 acres will be utilized for parks, trails, lakes and natural areas interconnected for residents and public enjoyment.

“You’ll live in a nice suburban neighborhood like you might see on Daniel Island, but all around the perimeter are preserved natural spaces and there are trails that enable your kid to ride his/her bike from one neighborhood to the next without getting involved in a busy road system is pretty enticing when you can do that in the heart of Metro Charleston,” Sloan said.

In framing the plan the owners worked with wildlife biologists and local conservation groups to identify the areas best to be preserved and those more suitable for infrastructure. The National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act demanded a full-scale environmental assessment of the entire plantation, according to Daniel Island Development Company.

 “This has been private land that only the family has enjoyed all of these years and now through all of this accessibility that we are creating, this land is available not just to the people who will live there but to the entire metro area to enjoy for recreation,” said Carolyn Lancaster, vice president of Daniel Island Development Company.

Lancaster says the requests for land usage by the Berkeley County School District and SCE&G have helped push Cainhoy Plantation in the direction of modern development.

“Last year I’m guessing there were maybe 25 people that got to go out and recreate on the property. It’s used by a very select few because it’s been private and now all those ‘No Trespassing’ signs go away,” Sloan added.

The Cainhoy Plantation property was approved for 18,000 homes but is projected to accommodate 9,000. The first commercial activity is expected to make way during the upcoming summer months with the installment of Point Hope Commons and the first residential neighborhoods in Point Hope Village sometime in 2019.

“We are in pre-development on the first neighborhood right now and we expect to break ground on that this summer, which means we will have builders there next year and home-buying opportunities as early as fall of 2019,” Sloan said. (credit: Moultrie News)