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Greenbelts Advisory Board Meeting July 5

First meeting with consultant Extensive public input to be sought for Greenbelt plan
Warwick Jones, Editor

The Greenbelts Advisory Board (GAB) had its first formal meeting with the consultant retained by the County to formulate the Comprehensive Greenbelts Plan. Mr. Charles Flink, a principal of the consultant, Greenways Inc., made a presentation that was essentially an introduction to the firm, its history and some of the concepts it devised. In broad terms, he spoke of his approach to the plan for Charleston County.

Greenways Inc was chosen to be the "greenbelt" consultant after a considerable review process. It was one of four final contenders chosen by Staff, which included the Director and Deputy Director of County Planning, and the head of the Parks and Recreation. As stipulated in the Ordinance that created the GAB, the consultant is to prepare a "Comprehensive Greenbelt Plan" which is to provide a framework for determining the policies of the GAB. In conjunction with the Plan, the consultant is to prepare an inventory of greenbelts in the County and a projection of needs over the next 25 years. According to Staff, the contract with Greenways has not yet been signed but is in its final stages with only minor details to be settled. The contract came before the Finance Committee 2 weeks ago and was for an amount of $225,000.

The history of Greenways Inc extends to 1986 and since that time, it has built an impressive list of clients, in the US and overseas. It has completed projects in 32 states of the US and in 100 communities. It has also worked in Argentina, Canada and Japan. Its focus has been on "open space, greenways and bicycle and pedestrian planning".

Its approach to formulating a plan for Charleston County will be little different from that for other projects it has undertaken. It would conduct two public workshops. The first would be for citizens to defines goals and solicit views. This would also be in accordance with the County's desire to solicit opinion from its citizens as to what should be included in "greenbelts". The second workshop would be to present a preliminary Greenbelts Plan to solicit further input and generate discussion. Again, this is in line with that proposed by the County and a number of other Conservation Groups. And in that regard, Greenways Inc plans on producing 3 newsletters during the process, for distribution to the public. These would discuss ideas and issues that are raised through the hearing process.

Mr. Flink went to discuss some of the surveys that it undertook on behalf of other clients and the conclusions reached. In a North West Regional Open Space Plan, about 60% of respondents ranked Preservation of natural areas and "viewsheds", and provision of habitats for wildlife and plant life as the most important of goals. The least important were building trail networks, building equestrian trails and developing new sports fields.

A project schedule was included in the presentation which indicated that a draft Comprehensive Greenbelt Plan would be ready within 5 to 8 months and the final plan within 9 to 11 months. However, Mr. Flink said that it was a very loose schedule and he did not want make any time commitments at this stage. We understand that with a lot of the data in relation to inventory already accumulated by the County, the timetable included in the presentation may indeed be shortened.

The Chairman of the GAB, Ms. Maybank suggested that it may be opportune to ask the consultant about his view of the definition of "greenbelts" but the consultant suggested that another meeting time would be better. He would also like to learn the views of the GAB members. Accordingly the next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday July 19 at 2 pm and is expected to last for 2 hours or so.

There was little other business discussed at the meeting. It was agreed that a quorum for meetings of the GAB should be nine members (out of the 14). Should any member be absent for 3 consecutive meetings without extenuating circumstances, a note would be sent from the Board to the sponsoring member of Council. It was also noted that Senator Ravenel was ill and was not expected to attend meetings for an indefinite period. The Town of Mount Pleasant authorized Ted Summerford to sit in his stead.

Warwick Jones is a member of GAB

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