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Greenbelt Advisory Board August 25

Preparing for the public meetings
PRC may receive first funds
Warwick Jones, Editor

Yesterday's meeting focused largely on issues relating to the pubic meetings scheduled for September. The Board refined further its definition of "greenbelts" and began working on the wording of questions that the Consultant, Greenways Inc., planned to ask those attending the meetings.

A definition of "greenbelts" is necessary to fulfill the requirements of the sales tax ordinance. No definition was included in the ordinance and the County has asked the Greenbelts Advisory Board (GAB) to prepare one. The GAB is now doing this but before the definition is completed, the opinion of the public will be sought. The "final draft" definition of "greenbelts" on which the GAB continues to work, will be submitted to the public for their comments and suggested amendments. Only after the public meetings will a final definition be made. And of course, this definition will be a starting point in the distribution of sales tax funds. The draft as it stood before the beginning of yesterday's meeting is shown below.

Charleston County Greenbelts Plan
Working Definition of Greenbelts II:

DRAFT FOR DISCUSSION

For the purpose of the Charleston County Greenbelts Plan, the term greenbelts will be used to describe a variety of land types. Greenbelts may include public or private lands in rural, suburban and urban settings. Access to greenbelts may also be public or private. The various types of greenbelts are listed below. They may include, but are not limited to, their subcategories:

Passive greenspace: Trails, greenways, and interpretive parks
Active greenspace: Low-impact play fields and parks, including areas for fishing crabbing, etc.
Low Country ecosystems: Upland forests, swamps, bogs, brackish and freshwater wetlands,
Carolina bays, marsh islands, and cypress, blackwater, and saltwater marshes
Productive landscapes: Lands used for agriculture, silviculture, and mariculture
Heritage landscapes: Irreplaceable cultural and historical landscapes unique to the County Corridors: Scenic roadways, abandoned rail lines, and utility corridors
Natural infrastructure: Floodplains, recharge zones, and lands critical to safe water supply
Reclaimed greenspace: Brownfields, abandoned sites, and other green infill projects

These greenbelts collectively form a protected living system of landscapes that serve the residents, businesses, visitors, and future generations of Charleston County by preserving and improving the quality of life for all.

Yesterday's discussion will lead to some minor amendments to wording and also the inclusion of definitions of some of the terms, in particular passive and active greenspace.

The discussion of the questions to be asked by the consultant at the Public meetings was far more spirited. The consultant suggested that 5 questions be asked, and in 4 of the 5, citizens were asked to rank their preference from a given menu of choices. The questions were;
What types of greenspace do you value the most for conservation?
Where would you most like to see these greenspaces protected?
How would you like to use the protected greenspaces?
What is the best way to protect greenspace?
The final question was a request asking citizens what a greenbelts plan for Charleston County should include?

We are not going to attempt to capture all the questions and suggestions of GAB members as the questionnaire was really more the basis for discussion than a final draft. But suffice to say that board members asked whether there were sufficient questions and raised issues relating to wording and possible confusion relating to the choices. The consultant will prepare more drafts for perusal by the GAB members over the next few weeks. And as the consultant said, this is the first questionnaire that will be put before the public. A more refined one will follow after input from the public hearings.

The Public hearings/workshops are scheduled as follows
September 21. Charleston County Offices, 4045 Bridge View Drive, North Charleston.
September 22. Johns Island Regional Library, 3531 Maybank Highway, Johns Island.
September 22. Mount Pleasant Regional Library, 1133 Mathis Ferry Rd, Mt Pleasant.
All workshops will be conducted from 2 pm to 7pm.

County to move on $36 million bond issue for PRC?
The final issue that was discussed yesterday took most members by surprise. And indeed, one member requested that the issue be tabled for discussion and voting at the next meeting as nobody was prepared for discussion. The issue was whether the County should move forward with a bond issue to fund the $36 million that was referred to in the sales tax referendum ordinance for spending by the County Parks and Recreation Commission. The request followed a meeting of the GAB Chairman, County Chairman Stavrinakis and the director of the PRC. Should the spending be treated the same way as the balance of the $221 million marked for greenbelts? It is the first thoughts of this author that the County can move ahead with this regardless of the GAB opinion as it was mentioned specifically in the sale tax referendum. But the Chairman of the County Council recognizes the role of the GAB as an oversight body and looks to its opinion as a matter of form.

It would perhaps be premature to explore this issue at depth without the benefit of other counsel. First feelings again of this GAB member are that if the PRC indicates specifically where the funds will be spent and the GAB endorses the spending, then fine. But there is still some risk that such an approval may be counter to the wishes of the public expressed in the meetings scheduled for next month. And there is the feeling of the other municipalities. Why should the PRC get the first bite of the apple? They too have pressing projects that are worthy of consideration. The next GAB meeting (September 20) could be interesting.

Warwick Jones is a member of the GAB

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