The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance
Greenbelt Advisory Board, August 7
How to rank “heritage and cultural” sites for funding?
Any evaluation will be subjectiveWarwick Jones
Deliberation over “heritage and cultural sites” took up most of the time at the August meeting of the Greenbelt Advisory Board (GAB). The County Greenbelt Bank had asked the GAB to more fully define the term and to give it more guidance in setting criteria for allocation of funds. From the discussion yesterday, it is possible the Bank will not get what it hoped for. It is not that the GAB was reluctant to provide guidance; it is just difficult to provide firm guidelines when values are very subjective.
Sweet-grass application raised question mark
The Bank’s request arose after the first round of application for greenbelt fund for rural projects. There was one application that fell into the “heritage and cultural” category. Relative to other applications, the requested money amount was high and there were no matching funds. The applicant sought $1.6 million for 70 acres, to be used essentially for growing sweet grass for the basket weaving industry.
Bank and GAB members noted the relative high cost per acre of the application. It amounted to over $22,000 and acre and compared to costs of less than $4000 an acre for straight-forward conservation projects. The Bank probably wanted some comfort and reassurance about its decision on the “sweet-grass” application before embarking on further rounds of rural applications.
High cost per acre reflects grant for “fee simple” land
Ms Cathy Ruff of County Staff noted that part of the explanation of the big difference in per acre costs related to the nature of the deals. The “heritage” grant was to buy “fee simple” land. The “conservation” grants were for easements and had large matching contributions from the land owners and non-profit groups. There was less scope for such contributions for heritage and cultural sites.
If there were a consensus in the GAB discussion, it was the difficulty of determining an evaluation. “Subjective” was the common word in most members contribution to the discussion. This writer got the feeling that the Bank was not going to get the help it sought and may have to rely on it s own judgment as to value and merit.
Subcommittee to make attempt at evaluation
The GAB decided on a subcommittee consisting of the Chair, Vice Chair, and Ms Ruff to deliberate on the definition and evaluation, and to submit their effort to the rest of the Board for discussion.
County reaffirms intentions to assure compliance with grant conditions
The only other matter of substance related to restrictions on the use of grant monies. The issue had been raised earlier in the year and Mr. Kurt Taylor of the County legal staff noted that restrictions would be two fold. They would be written into the grant agreements and spell out the use of the funds, the terms and the consequence of violations. The grant agreements would be recorded and incorporated into the deeds of the properties.
Warwick Jones is a member of the GAB