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Greenbelts Advisory Board Meeting - November 29

Drawing the line!
Warwick Jones

Given the nature of the Board, there was always the potential for a split. And very possibly, it will occur at the next meeting. The issue is where the Greenbelts Advisory Board (GAB) should draw the line on usage of funds allocated to the cities in the County? Actually the GAB still has to draw lines between or around many goals and objectives. Yesterday's issue related specifically to developments such as playgrounds or swimming pools. If the Cities could draw on funds to purchase the land, why not funds to add these sorts of facilities? With three members of the GAB appointed by each of the Cities of Charleston and North Charleston, and by the Town of Mount Pleasant, it seems certain that this question would be asked. It was, but a decision was deferred until the next meeting, allowing members to contemplate their action.

Differences lying latent
Differences in attitude between members of the GAB appointed by the County Council members and those of the major municipalities have been lying latent since the GAB was formed. Certainly there have been differences between members on a number of issues, but no issue was polarizing. This one clearly is. As the Cities would rightly say, tax proceeds are derived largely from their residents. For this reason, their voices need to be heard and recognized. Almost certainly the GAB members representing the three major urban areas will focus on what they perceive is best for the folk they represent.

What brought the issue to a head was discussion of a Statement of Intent as the GAB works to defining the Charleston County Comprehensive Greenbelts Plan. This is all part of a long process which started some months ago with an attempt to define "greenbelt" for the purpose of the Plan, and to seek input from the public as to what sort of greenbelts were wanted. The process continued yesterday with some discussion on concepts, and as to whether it was worth while separating "agricultural" land from "rural" land, and "urban" areas from "suburban" areas. The Board thought that it was not worthwhile. And there was nothing in this discussion to cause temperatures to rise. (Actually, they were pretty high anyhow as the air conditioning in the County Building had failed)

Question of sales tax allocations
But coming back to the metaphor, temperatures rose when it came to the discussion on the Statement of Intent on Allocation of the Sales Tax proceeds. The consultant, Greenways Inc, had drafted a statement for discussion. In our view it was a good effort to start members thinking more about the process rather than an attempt to fully define it. Very broadly and for GAB purposes only, the County has been divided into Rural and Urban areas. The draft of the Intent said that sales tax funds will be allocated to both these broad areas in a process which will include a formula that is still to be determined. The language did not preclude any other bases of determination. What turned up the heat was the suggestion that funds could be allocated for "greenspace facility development". What did this mean? Was it bricks and mortar, development beyond land acquisition?

Many do not favor allocations beyond land and development rights
A number of members indicated opposition to spending of sales tax funds on anything beyond land, or development right acquisitions. But recognizing the divisive nature of the issue, Chairman Maybank asked Members Anderson and Thompson, representing North Charleston and Charleston respectively, for their views. Understandably, they look for sales tax funding beyond land acquisition. Council member Anderson did not attempt to make a case for funding facility development but asked that the wording allow some flexibility, presumably to allow the Cities an ability to at least approach the GAB for endorsement for such spending.

Some members prepared to vote on issue
Board Member Terebus suggested that the issue was real and that we might as well address it now, and some of us were inclined to agree. But Chairman Maybank thought that the issue was very important and that members should be allowed some time to reflect and for the City representatives to speak with their respective Mayors. A fuller debate, and most likely a vote, will take place at the next meeting in a week's time.

We will not attempt to address the pro and cons of the issue. They should fill the report on next week's meeting. We will say that this member is not inclined to vote for any funding beyond that for land, or development rights acquisition and I know this view is shared by other GAB members. But we won't speculate as to whether it is a majority view. It also is possible that some Statement of Intent can be devised that effects a compromise.

Warwick Jones is a member of the GAB

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