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Greenbelt Advisory Board December 12

Approves Urban Grant Application Form
Many new faces on Board next year
Warwick Jones

The Greenbelt Advisory Board (GAB) met yesterday for the first time in about 6 months. The purpose essentially was to consider a draft of the Application Form and accompanying documents relating to Urban Grants. The draft document was prepared by staff with the guidance of the Urban Grant Review Committee, a body that consists of 6 members - 2 drawn from the GAB, 2 from the Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC), and 2 from County Staff. The Committee was formed by the Council following a recommendation by the GAB contained in the Comprehensive Greenbelt Plan.

No major issues
Although discussion of the draft took well over an hour, there were no major issues. In the opinion of this member of the GAB, the Application Form was thorough and comprehensive as was the wording in the Instructions that support the Application. The task of assessing the relative worth of applications by staff of the County, PRC and municipalities, and the GAB, may not be easy, but at least viewers should be to see all that is relevant.

The Application Form and Instructions are very similar to those for Rural Grants, perhaps not surprising since they were first crafted by County staff that drew extensively on the application forms of the SC Conservation Bank, and the Comprehensive Greenbelt Plan. The major difference is that Rural Grants will be administered by the recently formed Greenbelt Bank (GB).

County staff will score all applications for Rural Grants and rank applications. The applications and scores will also be reviewed by the GB which may decide to alter the rankings. The GB will ultimately decide the recipients of the grants.

Municipalities to submit or endorse proposals
In the case of Urban Grants, County staff will be responsible for assuring that the applications are properly prepared. But they will not have a role in scoring the proposed projects. As proposed under the Comprehensive Greenbelt Plan, the municipalities will make the decision as to what projects they wish to undertake or endorse. But the actual decision on a grant lies with the Urban Grant Committee. The entitlement of municipalities to greenbelt funds is in proportion to their populations. For example, the City of Charleston with about 35% of the County's population will be entitled to the same percentage of greenbelt funds allocated to Urban Grants. Looking at the $95 million to be raised in a bond issue next year, 30% of the proceeds, or $28.5 million, will go to Urban Grants, of which about $9.9 will be the City of Charleston's entitlement.

Reasonable closing costs will qualify for financing
Viewers are probably not interested in the minor changes that were proposed, but a few are worth noting, such as reasonable costs relating to closing on the acquisition of a property. The GB decided at its meeting earlier this month that it would finance "reasonable costs" associated with closing of a Greenbelt acquisition. Some members of the GAB thought that these costs should not qualify for financing by greenbelt funds, even though they might be small. But for consistency at least, the GAB decided to go along with their inclusion for Urban Grants

The GAB required that landowners indicate whether there had been any change in the zoning of a target property in the previous 3 years and sought the inclusion of details if the property were for sale, had liens or outstanding taxes, and had easements.

Many new faces in 2007
The Chair, Ms Louise Maybank noted that the ranks of the GAB had been/ would be thinned with original members resigning to become Administrator of the County (Mack Canterbury), to join the CB (Edwin Cooper), and to become a member of County Council (Dickie Schweers)and to join the County School Board ( Arthur Ravenel). She also noted that with the departure of Chairman Leon Stavrinakis from Council, 3 positions on the GAB would fall vacant and would be filled by the nominations of the next Chairman of the County. One of these positions was her own.