ST. HELENA ISLAND, S.C. (WSAV) — A controversial 500-acre development on St. Helena Island has been rejected by the Beaufort County Planning Commission.

Dozens of residents came to the meeting about the housing development and 18-hole golf course planned for the area.

Pine Island GC, LLC wants almost 500 acres to be removed from the CPO or Cultural Protection Overlay, to build what it describes as a “world-class, legacy development” that would include a golf course, short-term rentals, and residential development.

The company claimed the development wouldn’t displace any residents, “add zero children to the school system, require zero County dollars, and generate minimal infrastructure stress all while generating significant tax revenue for the county.”

The Cultural Protection Overlay is designed to protect the environment and history of the area, which is considered the epicenter of Gullah Culture.

Before the meeting even started, the project had its detractors.

Gov. Henry McMaster wrote a letter against the project this week to Planning Commission Chairman Ed Pappas.

“With South Carolina’s population rapidly expanding, debates like this are happening across our state but few threaten the natural beauty, history, and rich culture of our state as this one does. It is my fear that changes to the CPO, which has protected St. Helena from this type of development since 1999, will signal ‘open season’ to other developers and create a domino effect on St. Helena Island and beyond.”

The Penn Center, which works to preserve the history of African Americans and Gullah-Geechee culture, the Coastal Conservation League, and the Gullah Geechee Sea Island Coalition all voiced their opposition to the project as well.

Residents had their chance to voice an opinion at Thursday night’s meeting.

“Everybody in this room knows that if Pine Island is developed then it’s the beginning of the end,” resident Chip Spears said. “Everybody knows. I’m confused, attorneys come down from Boston, you have a developer coming down from Boston threatening a lawsuit and everybody shakes. You are going to have a lawsuit anyway.”

“You cannot have gated communities wherever you want them, golf courses wherever you want them without forcing out the local people. and without ruining the environment,” Spears also said. “Amending the overlay would run counter to the express will of the citizens of St Helena and the will of the people of Beaufort County.”

In the end, the panel rejected the proposal to change the zoning.

The final decision will be in the hands of the Beaufort County Council. It will vote on at the meeting Monday.