The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance
Greenbelts Advisory Board June 15
Finance Committee asked to defer decision on Conservation Bank
Public beginning to present viewsWarwick Jones, Editor
The Greenbelt Advisory Board (GAB) had its third meeting yesterday and clearly is still feeling its way. On the agenda was a presentation by Council Chairman Stavrinakis on the role of the GAB, a presentation by the Department of Natural Resources, consideration of the role of the Greenbelt Consultant, and consideration of the Conservation Bank proposed by Council member Bostic.
Louise Maybank elected to Chair
First the house keeping. Ms. Louise Maybank was overwhelming voted to the position of Chair of the Board and Mr. Mack Canterbury to the position of Vice Chair. Ms Maybank has served on a number of Charleston City boards and Commissions, including the Planning Commission, She was also founding board member of the Low Country Open Land Trust. Mr. Canterbury, before retirement, was Chief Deputy Administrator for Charleston County.
Chairman of Council chooses to only answer questions
Council Chairman Stavrinakis did not make an address on the role of the GAB but chose to ask GAB members to raise questions. He was asked as to whether the language in the ordinance creating the GAB was sufficient for the Board to play the oversight role that citizens expected. He never quite answered the question but said that he was loathe to tamper with anything that had been set in the ordinance. Did he have any fears that as the sales-tax referendum was held under State Law that related to transportation, that "greenbelt" could be defined very narrowly and preclude many of the things that citizens hoped for? He responded that he thought that there would not be a legal issue and that he encouraged the GAB to "think broadly" and "not rule anything out of the definition". He was also asked if he were concerned about Council's recent action of displacing spending on road projects in Public Works with sales tax funding. Weren't sales tax proceeds for new projects and not for funding continuing work? Could such displacement occur say in Parks and Recreation and be a problem for the GAB. He said he recognized the need to address the problem in Transportation but it was not something that should concern the GAB. Spending on "greenbelts" would be essentially all new projects.
6 month deferral sought on Conservation Bank issue
The GAB also considered its previous request to the Finance Committee of Council to delay the hiring of a consultant and the hearing on the Conservation Bank proposed by Council member Bostic. Because of the importance of the Consultant to the role of the GAB, GAB agreed not stand in the way of the hiring. It had a different view of the Conservation Bank and voted to ask that the Finance Committee delay its vote on the creation of the Bank for 6 months until the GAB was up and running and had a better idea as to its own functioning. It was pointed out that the definition of "greenbelt" had not yet been determined and that language in the bank ordinance may cut across the definition determined by GAB. There was also ambiguity in the role of GAB and the Conservation Bank. The idea of a Conservation Bank was probably good but it was premature. Nothing would be lost if its creation were delayed for some months.
The South Carolina Conservation Bank came up after the presentation by Barry Beasley of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). He spoke of the newly created Bank and the good that it had done. However, it had limited resources with an allocation of only about $15 million a year. Mr. Beasley said that the DNR held title to about 180,000 acres in South Carolina. About 82,000 acres were held in the Heritage Trust Fund and represented an effort to preserve outstanding representatives of the State's heritage. Much of the balance related to wildlife protection. It would like to acquire more land but it was expensive and the funds were not there.
Public now coming forward
The final part of the GAB meeting was the forum for public comment. There were three speakers yesterday. The first asked for more park facilities on James Island, the second for the acquisition of land for a buffer to protect some undeveloped properties and the third asked for consideration of more land to extend the "pathway" that parallels Route 17 through West Ashley.
It will be interesting to see how important this forum becomes. The views of the public are being sought now in the process of defining greenbelts. Public hearings most likely will be held later this year. But beyond these, the GAB presumably will meet on a regular basis. It is natural that citizens will come before it rather than any other body to make request on an informal basis for green space consideration.
Note: Warwick Jones is a member of GAB