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County Council October 27

Committee approves formation of Conservation Bank
Mitigation efforts proposed for Mark Clark and Port Road
Warwick Jones, standing in for Shawn Keller who is on military duty in Iraq

The Finance Committee approved the formation of the Conservation Bank proposed by Council member Bostic. However, the Committee voted to hold back funding for the bank until the Comprehensive Green Belt Plan was completed. The approval, despite the caveat of funding, was a slap in the face of the recently formed Greenbelt Advisory Board (GAB). The GAB had asked Council to defer the issue because of a number of reasons. Essentially, its stated that a decision on its formation was premature. It should wait for the Greenbelt Plan and until the mechanism for the choice of greenbelt acquisitions and the disposal of sales tax funds had been worked out.

It is interesting to speculate why there was a change in heart of some of the Council members. Council members Darby and Pryor previously spoke against the formation of the bank as did Chairman Stavrinakis, the latter even praising the ordinance last night. Yet the ordinance was exactly the same as that discussed 3 to 4 months ago. The discussion last night gave no indication as to why the members changed their minds. Indeed, the debate about the bank was shallow and much revolved about whether funding should be deferred.

Council members Fava, Inabinett and Condon voted against the ordinance. The votes of the first two council members were consistent with those at the meeting earlier this year. Council member Condon was voting for the first time on the issue. Councilmember Fava had a number of issues with the ordinance and also wanted to comply with the wishes of the GAB. The other two council members concurred with the latter view. Council member Condon also questioned the nature of the board of the proposed bank and suggested it comprise members of the GAB. Chairman Stavrinakis also voiced the same hope but notwithstanding, voted for the ordinance.

The main speaker for the bank ordinance understandably was Council member Bostic. Strangely, nobody else soundly endorsed it. He referred to the need to leverage funds and to create an entity to take funds from private sources as well as from the sales tax, to use for greenbelt acquisitions or financings. He also disputed that the Bank could act contrary to the GAB and also noted that in all financings in excess of $500,00 it would need Council approval

To this member of GAB, the vote of the Committee last night was disappointing. Nobody mentioned the sales tax ordinace, the ordinance that created GAB and the possible breach of faith with voters by the creation of the Bank. And thre are a host of other issues (See posting on site, September 26).

Of the majority of the members of the GAB, each is appointed by a member of Council. Presumably, the Council members have faith in their appointed members. The GAB is struggling presently to define its role and that of other entities in the County such as the PRC and the municipalities. It is also about to study the need for creation or re-shaping of entities in the County to facilitate the administration of the sales tax funds and their disposal. Its task is not helped by the holes in the ordinance that shaped the GAB. This is exemplified by the use of the word "greenbelt" in the sales tax referendum. This word was not defined by the County and its interpretation is creating some heat in the community. The County has asked the GAB to define the word and almost certainly, its final definition will create critics of the GAB.

This writer has not heard criticism of the GAB and what it is doing, nor of the pace of progress. Indeed, there seems to have been mostly praise for clearing a path through the maze of issues before it. But then again, people generally only say what they expect other people want to hear and indeed, the truly prickly issues are only now emerging. Despite the good intent of the GAB, the work that it has put in to help the Council, and not least, the advice of the Consultant hired by the County, the Finance Committee, which consists of all members of County Council, chose to ignore their wishes. And they were ignored without good reason, at least, without a publicly disclosed reason. There will be some soul searching on GAB as to its role in future in the light of the Committee's decisions.

Attempt at mitigation of I-526 extension, and port road
We can't be sure of the wording of the resolutions. There were amendments and amendments. But essentially, the Finance Committee voted to study possible mitigation efforts to offset the effect of the extension of I-526, and the road linking the new container terminal of North Charleston to I-26. The County proposes to make a submission to the State Infrastructure Bank for financing these projects. Both projects were criticized by some members of Council. Council members Darby and Pryor were most concerned about the impact on communities in the northern part of the Peninsula and Council member Condon and Inabinett were concerned about those on Johns Island.

Chairman Stavrinakis noted that much was beyond the control of Council. In the case of the access road, the DOT and the Port Authority were involved. The Port had chosen a route but the DOT had yet to confirm. Whatever the final route, he promised that the County would make sure the communities would be protected.

Back on track for a Diversity Policy
Staff also submitted a Diversity Philosophy for perusal by Council. This was called for at the last meeting of the Finance Committee and after some heated debate about the tardiness of Staff in producing a Diversity Policy. The submission last night was accepted by the Committee after a 10% procurement goal was set for minority defined firms or persons, as proposed by Council member Pryor. The Diversity Philosophy will be the basis for the County to define a Diversity Policy.
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