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Greenbelt Advisory Board - June 1 meeting

Board searches to define "Greenbelt"
Seeks to discuss its role and that of the proposed Conservation Bank
Warwick Jones, Editor

As a member of the public said, there was not much action at yesterday's meeting. Most of the time was taken up with presentations by conservation groups and the Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC). In varying degree, they described their activities and gave their views as to how the sales tax fund should be dispersed in relation to "greenbelts". But in deference to the member of the public, too much action should not be expected at this early stage. The Board is feeling its way and there are many voids to be filled in defining its role. And the biggest void may well be the definition of "greenbelt". It was to help the GAB define the word that the conservation groups were invited to make presentations. There will be more presentations at the next meeting scheduled for June 15, at 3pm at County Council Offices in North Charleston.

Seeks delays on hearings by the County Finance Committee
If there were any action, it was the request by the GAB to ask the Finance Committee of the County Council to defer hearings scheduled for today on both the proposed Conservation Bank to service the County of Charleston, and the retention of a consultant to prepare the Comprehensive Greenbelt Plan. The request was approved unanimously by the board. The GAB considered that more time was necessary to find its feet, to define its purpose, and define the word "greenbelt". The passage of the ordinance creating the Conservation Bank and retaining a consultant on the proposed terms without fuller consideration by GAB was seen as possibly creating problems and conflicts for the Board.

The role of the GAB was set out in Ordinance 1343, which was passed before the Sales Tax referendum. There seems to be contradictions between this ordinance and common belief as to who should define "greenbelts" and the role of the GAB. Most likely some of these issues will be discussed at the next meeting of the GAB.

Conservation Bank is complementary to GAB, Council Member Bostic says
First to make a presentation yesterday was Council member Bostic who is championing the passage of the Ordinance relating to the proposed local Conservation Bank. He pointed to the good that the SC Conservation Bank was doing and the potential role the new bank could play in Charleston County. He also said that he did not see the bank in conflict with the GAB but rather complementary to it. It was pointed out by a GAB member that the proposed bank ordinance has been presented to the Finance Committee some weeks ago and the Committee had voted to send it to the GAB for review. This seemed the proper thing to do so why was Council member Bostic once again bringing it before the Finance Committee for an "up or down" vote when the GAB has not discussed it. Why the urgency he was asked?

Take a wide view of Greenbelts says the PRC
Following Council member Bostic was Tom O'Rourke who made a presentation on behalf of the County PRC, and also the respective bodies of the Cities of Charleston and North Charleston. He reminded us that although there was no definition of "greenbelt" in the 2004 referendum and no breakdown of possible spending, it was more fully spelled out in the referenda in 2002 and 2000. In these, spending was more fully defined and in the 2000 referendum, the total amount to be allocated to green space etc was about $220 million of which $60 million was for PRC projects, $48 million for municipalities, and the balance of $113 million for "greenbelts". He was making a point that the GAB should not confine itself to a narrow definition of "greenbelt" - essentially a strip of green space bounding an urban area land. He said that if a survey were taken as to what people were thinking when they voted in the last referendum, there would be a spectrum of views. Some were thinking is the narrowest sense but some in the widest, and could include marinas and urban parks, he opined. He suggested that the GAB should not exclude anything from this spectrum. He said that if he were to identify something that was desperately needed that fell into the responsibility of the PRC, it would be boat landings.

The other groups that made presentation were Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, Open Land Trust, and the Trust for Public Land. If there were a commonality, it was the advice that the GAB consult with the public on what ever it does, and to use its resources to form partnerships if necessary with groups as those that presented. Some pointed to the rising cost of land and the urgent need to act quickly to secure land and easements before prices rose further. It was also interesting to this writer that the non-profits held very little land in fee simple. Most held easements over property. This preserved the land for rural or other conservation uses but in most cases, did not give the public any right of access.

Note. The writer is a member of GAB

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