The developer of Palmetto Bluff has agreed to build fewer homes along the environmentally sensitive May River, it announced Tuesday.
Instead, Charlotte-based Crescent Resources LLC will build houses once planned near the river elsewhere in Palmetto Bluff or shift them to other developments within Bluffton town limits.
Town and company officials hailed the agreement as a major achievement for the May River, parts of which remain closed to shellfishing amid persistently high bacteria levels.
"Crescent Resources and Palmetto Bluff have been genuine and effective partners in our efforts to protect the May River water quality and restore the headwaters area," Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka said in a statement. "This is a significant and meaningful milestone for the future of the May River."
Just how significant and meaningful is not fully clear.
Representatives of the developer referred most questions to town officials, most of whom declined interviews Tuesday.
However, town manager Anthony Barrett said the agreement will not require a zoning change and won't result in fewer homes in Palmetto Bluff, located off U.S. 46. In an email, he said the developer "may designate where the transferred (housing) units will land" but did not elaborate.
Asked whether the developer would become eligible for tax credits or other incentives from the deal, Barrett responded, "No, not from the town."
Gerrit Albert, general manager of Palmetto Bluff, said in a statement that the decision to partner with the town was unrelated to the slow housing market.
More details are expected at a press conference Friday.
The developer also announced plans to give the town six acres for a stormwater pond intended to capture and filter runoff before it reaches the river. Runoff from local development is considered a key source of pollution in the May River.
In the statement, the town said the pond could remove as much as 80 percent of harmful bacteria from stormwater before it reaches the river.