Daufuskie Island, South Carolina

Daufuskie Island, population 425 (2009), is a 5,200-acre sea island off the coast of Beaufort County, South Carolina. The island is accessible only by boat. It was once a key producer of Sea Island cotton and later was famous for its oysters. The oyster industry was destroyed by water pollution and the island fell into decline in the 1960s when author Pat Conroy spent a year there as a schoolteacher and wrote a book about his experiences called The Water is Wide which was later made into the movie Conrack. In the 1970s, developers began considering it as a possible resort destination like Hilton Head Island, its neighbor one mile up the coast.

In 2011, Beaufort County adopted a form based zoning code for Daufuskie Island that allows for concentration of development in selected growth sectors while encouraging the preservation of rural character and historic resources in designated conservation sectors. Specifically, the island’s national historic district contains 18 significant historic structures, 56 contributing structures and 167 wooded tracts that are also recognized as contributing to the area’s historic character. This area still retains features of Gullah culture, descendants of freed slaves who have lived here since the end of the Civil War.

To protect the natural environment and historic rural character, Beaufort County has incorporated TDR provisions within its 2011 zoning code for Daufuskie Island. The code is form based with three conservation sectors and four urban growth sectors. Land in the O1, Preserve Open Space Sector, can include land that has had its development rights previously removed but it is not technically a sending zone since the land with this classification has no rights left to transfer. Land in the O2, Reserve Open Space, and G1 Conservation Community Growth Sector can send TDRs to the dedicated receiving zone: G3 Intended Growth Sector. TDRs can be transferred between parcels in the G2, Controlled Growth Sector, a medium urbanization zone. The allocation ratio is one TDR per acre of land placed under permanent easement. The code provides an example of how TDR could work if a developer chooses to build a style of development called a Rural Cottage Close in a sending area: this style requires a minimum 4-acre parcel and maximum one-acre cluster of no more than six houses (maximum 1500 square feet) with the rest of the parcel preserved as open space. The parcel’s remaining development rights may then be sold as TDRs.

As mentioned above, the G3 Intended Growth Sector is a receiving area. This sector is planned for hamlets and villages. In the G5 Infill/Retrofit Growth Area, landowners can petition to become receiving sites using the Planned Unit Development process. Within these sectors, the code provides zoning districts with the following TDR baselines and maximum densities:

  • D3: 3 dwelling units per acre by right and 6 units per acre with TDR;
  • D4: 4 dwelling units per acre by right and 12 units per acre with TDR;
  • PD (Public District): 4 dwelling units per acre by right and 12 units per acre with TDR; and
  • D5 (Urban Center): 8 dwelling units per acre by right and 24 units per acre with TDR.