The Beaufort County Council gave final approval Monday to a program that will allow some residents near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort to sell the development rights to their properties.
Homes and buildings would remain, but a land owner would have the option to sell the right to build further. Developers could then purchase those rights to increase building density for projects in other specific areas.
"We're using free-market principles by creating a bank of money, so that the free market can purchase those development rights and then sell them to potential users in other areas where, coincidentally, we are trying to spur growth in the county," said Councilman Brian Flewelling.
The program is intended to help reduce development from encroaching on the air station, but is optional only.
"No one is required to participate in this program," said Councilman Bill McBride. "That's why I can't understand opposition to it."
Ann Ubelis, a member of the Beaufort TEA Party, said the program will leave land forever unusable -- even if the air station closes.
"It will leave an economic sinkhole in northern Beaufort County that we will never recover from," she said. "You're going to have a whole strip on (U.S.) 21 heading up to I-95 that we could attract good industry to, but you will not be able to develop it, because once you sell that TDR, that is in perpetuity."
Ubelis also argued that residents who sell development rights might devalue their neighbors' properties.
County planning director Tony Criscitiello disagreed.
"People's property values actually rise when there's open space being created," he said. "It's considered to be an amenity."
The program was approved 8-1, with Councilman Herbert Glaze of Burton opposed.