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County Council Meeting October 19

A Commission to be formed to oversee green space acquisition
Coastal Conservation League to oppose sales tax increase.
Warwick Jones, standing in for Shawn Keller who is on military duty in Iraq

County Council took another small step forward in an attempt to win voter approval for the half cent sales tax. It agreed to set up a panel similar to the proposed Country Transport Commission (CTC), to guide and oversee proposals for spending in relation to green space. Is the move enough? We don't think so. Nor did the SC Coastal Conservation League.

The CTC was proposed at a Council meeting in September. It was to comprise 14 members who would have the duty of identifying and recommending infrastructure and transport projects to County Counciland to play an oversight role. It was proposed because of the concern of many citizens about the large difference between the amount that would be raised under the proposed sales tax and the cost of projects that have been identified. Total proceeds projected for transport and infrastructure amount to $1.08 billion. The cost of projects identified amounted to $625 million. Many feared that the difference could be used in projects of doubtful utility and determined by political ends rather than community needs.

The Council argues that by inserting this independent body between it and the funds, the integrity of the decision to move ahead on projects can be certain. We dispute this by virtue of the manner the members of the Commissions are appointed. Each member of CountyCouncil has the right to pick one member for each of the Commmissions. As well, the northern and southern extremities of the County will have the right to each pick a member and the cities of the County the right to pick another 2 members. We question the ability of Commission members to be really truly independent in their decisions considering their patrons. Are Council members truly likely to appoint persons to the Commission who have views that in any way are dissimilar to theirs? Is there any certainty that each Commission member will not bend under pressure from their patron on any issue. We don't thinks so.

The Council previously proposed to use the Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC) as the body that would provide the oversight role in relation to green space. But the PRC was uncomfortable with this role. Probably for this reason more than any other, County Council chose to form a Commission similar to the CTC.

A member of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League was present at the meeting last night. It has been a critic of the increased sales tax and agitated for more oversight. This was partially met with the proposed creation of the CTC. The League was seeking closer supervision and oversight of spending on green space. We spoke to a League representative today who told us that the moves made by Council were not enough and it was going to oppose the tax increase. Reasons for its opposition would be posted on the web site halfcenttax.org here


Johns Islanders gather to oppose subdivision - "Drawing the line"
It was an impressive turnout. About 40 to 50 residents of Johns Island tuned out to protest the proposed subdivision of the Brickman Plantation. Some were concerned about the likely massive increase in traffic, problems with infrastructure, the lack of postal and school facilities. Others noted that precedent that would be set and the crack in the door would let in other developers and that the proposal was a portent of what would happened if the sale tax referendum was successful. Roads would be built or expanded leading to even more development, the county's comprehensive plan was being ignored.

The proposed developed in on a 300 acres site but after the exclusion of wet lands and buffers, available land falls to less than 200 acres. The developer proposes to build about 735 dwellings on this land with a density of between 4 and 5 per acre.

The complication, which was not mentioned in the meeting last night was the property, at the time of application for the subdivision, fell into the Urban Growth Area as defined by the county. This boundary was changed earlier this year only to be brought back again to its original position a month or so ago. There is no doubt that the subdivision, proposed under a Planned Development, would not be allowed under the property's present Residentail Rural (RR3) designation. But while it fell into the Urban Growth Area, it did. We understand that if the present subdivision request is rejected, the developer will have a right to build at the rate of 2.75 dwellings per acre. We are attempting to confirm this with County Planning.

So the Council is responsible for the present mess. And Councilmember Stavrinakis, without a hint of guilt, warned of the necessity for Johns Island residents to meet again with the developer to come up with a compromise. The council voted to defer a decision on the issue and to allow Planning and the parties to meet again.

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