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Greenbelt Advisory Board November 8

Seeking a vision for the County
Warwick Jones

One cannot minimize the role that the consultant is playing in the greenbelt process. One of its tasks is educating the Greenbelt Advisory Board (GAB). Some of us came to the table with little or no experience in greenbelts, or land preservation. And indeed, the learning process has some way to go, at least for one of us. But the consultant now has the task of drawing our opinions, to be used to help shape the Comprehensive Green Plan. I don't think that we are making it easy for him, but that does not stem from any ill intent on the part of Board members. In the view of this writer the problem is largely a mixture of uncertainly, and difference of opinions amongst board members. But whatever, the GAB has to start coming to conclusions. And the next meeting may see some.

Yesterday, Mr.Charles Flink, the principle of Greenways Inc made the first step in forming the vision of greenbelts for the County. He wanted the views of all members of the GAB and he got them, but not always in a very definitive way. We probably all got hung up on the amount of money available - $220 million over a 25 year period. It was all very well having a vision, but what if we could not afford to finance our vision, we thought? He said forget about the money aspect, just dream! Maybe it is impossible to achieve your dream but it will provide something to aspire to. And besides, the $220 million is only a starting point. These funds may be leveraged and may draw funds from other conservation groups.

We dreamed … extensive bike and foot paths
So we dreamed. This writer envisioned a series of significant and linked trails that stretched the length and breadth of the County, along which folk could walk and bike - so somebody on the Peninsula could bike say to Edisto, or Awendaw or other far out reaches of the County. The suggestion was not greeted with derision, at least not visibly. Mr. Flink noted that a County in which he had worked had a vision of 200 miles of trails but it has taken some years just to get 60 miles. Maybe 200 miles of trails in the County was possible and again, bike and walking trails were probably the most popular request at the recent public hearings.

…..Rural Greenspace and waterway access
The dream of trails did not rank top in the dreams of others. Many members wanted simple rural greenspace. They noted the change in the County over the years and reflected on their youth and the then much larger proportion of greenspace, "We need to leave the County greener than we found it" was another comment. Another member also reflecting on his youth, remembered the joy he had in fishing and crabbing, and how he saw the need to for more public access to water. Somebody suggested that some of this rural greenspace should have public access and not be simply the result of easements. And as Mr. Flink noted, in other areas of the US, trails had been located next to land preserved by easements. The public may not have access to the preserved land but with the trails on the boundary, the public were able to enjoy the preserved land.

……Interconnected villages surrounded by greenspace
The Chairman's vision, for the area outside the major cities of the County was of villages surrounded by greenspace but interconnected. There was also the related comment to look at goals for the urban environment as well. But nobody's dreams went in that direction.

But little vision for urban areas
But the course of the discussion did go in the urban direction and along a route that caused uneasiness for some of us. It spilled into discussion with a letter from the administrator of the Town of Mount Pleasant and prompted questions such as: How are the major Cities going to receive sales tax monies? Were they going to be allocated a sum which they could dispose at their leisure and without GAB scrutiny beyond the cash allocation? Clearly, there were some members who were in favor of this, stating that the GAB should not be telling the cities what to do. They have Parks and Recreation departments in place. Board member Johnston asked the GAB after he heard this argument as to whether we might close down the GAB? Just make allocations to the major cities and others in proportion to population and go away. Mr. Flink rose to the occasion and attempted to say other wise but his words seemed more placatory than explanatory.

It is hard to discern with any precision the collective view of the GAB on this urban issue except to say that there is probably a spectrum of views. It may be more fully explored at the next meeting.

More communication with the TAB
The letter from Mount Pleasant, which asked that bikeways, pathways and scenic buffers along new roads be added to the "greenbelt" definition, did prompt a request from members that the GAB communicate with the Transportation Advisory Board (TAB). There was no objection to the inclusion in the definition of the items mentioned by Mount Pleasant but it was thought that they also fell into the domain of the TAB. And it had a much higher level of funding from which it could draw. Chairman Maybank spoke to the TAB today.

Chairman speaks of disappointing Council decision
It should also be noted that County Council approved the Charleston County Greenbelt ordinance at its last meeting. The approval was made despite the request of the GAB to wait until Council had the benefit of the Comprehensive Greenbelt Plan. Chairman Maybank and I spoke at the Council meeting expressing disappointment.

Chairman Maybank told the GAB of her disappointment of the Council decision but asked that the GAB move on and not take up any time dealing further with the issue of the County Conservation Bank. It was the mood of the Board to agree with her.

Warwick Jones is a member of GAB

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