Charleston-Area Greenbelt Board Ponders Funding

April 1, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveThe Greenbelt Advisory Board last week continued its series of meetings to address issues directed to it by Charleston County Council.

The key item addressed concerned funding in the “Urban Unincorporated” — unincorporated areas on the urban side of the Urban Growth Boundary. It is an issue because the $2.9 million designated for this category has been exhausted.

It was argued that the allocations made on a “first come, first served” basis were unfair. Early projects that received funds may have been inferior to those submitted later. Of the $2.9 million, $1.7 million went to projects in the Mount Pleasant area.

After some discussion, the board voted to leave the existing process unchanged. It was not that the board was happy with the process, but it could not come up with a better one.

The total allocation for Urban Unincorporated was determined in proportion to the population the specific areas, similar to the municipalities.

To break the allocation down into smaller defined areas, even if possible, would make allocations very small. These amounts would not be significant enough to make meaningful purchases of either easements or fee simple land.

The most important of the remaining issues related to “Rural Criteria with Prioritization for Conservation Easements.” It was here that the board attempted to deal with council member Victor Rawl’s request to give more weight to public access and viewing, and contiguity with other preserved lands.

Presently, rural projects are scored by staff with a maximum of 100 before submission to the Greenbelt Bank. The present system and the maximum scoring are based on such factors as distinguishing characteristics of the projects, historical and cultural features, funding and public support.

Suggestions were made for revising the scoring system. Chairwoman Louise Maybank asked that board members consider the proposals and be prepared for lengthier debate at the next meeting before making a final decision.

At the next meeting, scheduled for April 13, the board will need to decide on its recommendations, to enable time for a public hearing and submission to council before that body begins time-consuming budget deliberations.

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