The Charleston County Greenbelt Programs began in 2004 when voters passed a one-half penny sales tax to fund roads, mass transit and greenbelts. Citizens were concerned that the new roads would promote growth that could impact the natural beauty of Charleston County. Of the $1.3 billion dollars that is expected to be collected during the 25-year life of the 2004 sales tax, $221 million was set-aside for greenbelts.
Charleston County Council appointed a 14-member Greenbelt Advisory Board to craft a plan on how these Greenbelt funds were to be spent. After 10 months of gathering extensive public input, conducting a greenspace inventory, and determining the future greenspace needs of the County, the Comprehensive Greenbelt Plan was finalized and approved unanimously by County Council in June 2006 and then incorporated into the County's Comprehensive Land Use Plan in January 2007.
At the time the Greenbelt Plan was created, 160,000 acres had already been protected in Charleston County. It was determined that at a minimum of 200,000 acres of greenspace was needed in order to meet the anticipated future population of the County. The Greenbelt Plan set a goal to protect the additional 40,000 acres needed to meet the goal.
With funding from the 2004 sales tax, the Greenbelt Program has protected over 21,000 acres of land, to date. Over 9,300 acres were purchased for future public parks and greenspaces.
Funds from the first sales tax have been virtually exhausted. In 2016 Charleston County citizens approved a second one-half penny sales tax for roads, mass transit and greenbelts. This 25-year tax will provide an additional $210 million for the Greenbelt Programs.