About 220 acres of former farmland and forest could become a 330-residence community centered around a working, educational farm.
Construction on Cane Island Residential could begin as early as spring, developer Scott Trotter said Friday. The sale by the family of Flora G. Trask to the developer is expected to close in January.
Work will be done in phases, with complete build-out expected within eight years, he said.
The land is within the city of Beaufort, and a development agreement limits the property to 395 homes and 185,000 square feet of commercial space.
The land was purchased by the Trask family in 1944, Trotter said, and was a working farm for decades. A packing shed still stands at one of the entrances to the property between Gibbs and Cat islands.
More recently, it was a you-pick daffodil farm, until those operations ceased a few years ago.
John M. Trask Sr. and Flora G. Trask planted 40 acres of daffodils in the late 1960s. Trotter said he intends to plant more bulbs -- the old ones are "tired" -- and revive the springtime tradition, which sometimes was marked by a festival.
The most unusual aspect would be a working 35-acre farm in the middle of the property. The bulk of the farm would be leased to a farmer.
The old packing shed would be renovated for reuse as a "food hub" where local farmers could bring produce, and special events could be held, Trotter said.
"The history of this property is farming, so I like the idea of bringing that back," he said.
Financial support for educational programs could come from a community-supported agriculture program with regularly scheduled, prepaid vegetable and fruit orders, and farm stands that sell produce, along with annual fundraisers, Trotter said. The educational efforts would include demonstration plots of plants that have been grown in the Lowcountry.
"I think that farms -- organic farms, working farms, sustainable foods -- are a great idea," Mayor Billy Keyserling said. "We used to have a community garden where MidTown (residents) went. ... We tried to relocate it but couldn't find a space."
Cane Island has about 10,000 feet of water- and marsh-front property, Trotter said, and houses with private and shared docks will be built along the waterway.
Waterfront lots range from about $400,000 to $510,000, Trotter said, with discounts for pre-sales. Homes, which will be from about three dozen preapproved plans, could range from $500,000 to $1 million.
Additional residences, and a 120,000-square-foot town center with space for offices, shops, restaurants and other commercial uses, will be in the center.
Cane Island was among a number of Trask family properties put up for auction in 2012 but failed to sell. Trotter said he originally looked at developing the Port of Port Royal and was introduced to Cane Island while trying to find comparable property for pricing purposes.
"We had a nice chat, and they said, 'You need to forget about that port and come over and look at Cane Island,'" Trotter said. "They brought me out here, and I fell in love with it."
About 41 acres will be in conservation easements, including a 6-acre rookery. A 3.5-acre park will be protected at the west end of the island, where a pine tree with a bald eagles' nest was cut down during land clearing. An S.C. Department of Natural Resources investigation is ongoing. John Trask III said efforts are underway to mitigate the damage and encourage the eagles to nest in a neighboring tree.
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