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Grants totaling $5.4 million approved by Greenbelt Bank

City of Charleston request approved but with conditions
Warwick Jones

The Greenbelt Bank approved 6 applications for rural grants at its meeting today. The grants totaled $5.4 million. Most of the grants related to conservation easements on properties on Edisto, Johns, Yonge and Wadmalaw Islands. The application by the City of Charleston was also approved for a park adjacent to the proposed Long Savannah development in West Ashley. But the approval came with conditions.

The City signaled its intention to reapply for funding at the last Council meeting. Its intention was again described by staff at today’s meeting. The parcel of 212 acres it seeks to acquire adjoins the much larger parcel that the PRC proposes to acquire. The City stated that the appraised value was $7.4 million and that the developer had offered it to the City for $2.8 million. The City was approaching the Greenbelt Bank for half the funding ie $1.4 million. It would endeavor to secure the other half from the Urban Grants Review Committee. It argues, in far more words, that the present zoning (4 units per acre) of the 212 acre property ought to make it "urban" while the movement of the UGB to accommodate the development would place it all in the "urban" side of the UGB and thereby qualify for a grant.

Bank suggests parcel should be split
The Bank board did not attempt to discuss the movement of the UGB. But it noticed the impracticality of the City’s request, at least relating to one aspect. The Bank could not lend for active parks, ball fields etc. To overcome this, the Bank said it would approve the $1.4 million if the parcel were split and the $1.4 million be applied only to that part – the eastern side – which would remain largely undisturbed. This provision would be enforced by the County and the restriction would be written into the grant.

This seemed very acceptable to City staff, which at an unspecified time, will come again before the Bank to define that area to which a rural grant can be applied.

Issue is contentious
We note that the developer has imposed a condition on both the PRC and the City of Charleston purchases - that the UGB be moved to incorporate the proposed Long Savannah development on the urban side. This would allow the construction of some thousands of houses, and substantial commercial buildings. The development would also be annexed into the City and there would be access to water and sewage facilities. Some County Council members have opposed any further development in this part of West Ashley because of the already extreme traffic congestion. So it is far from certain that the development will proceed.

A summary of the grants can be seen by pressing Download file.

Grants ranged from $974 to $4,043 /acre
The largest grant was for a conservation easement on the 572 acre property on Edisto Island called Salt Landing. The application was made by the Nature Conservancy. The value of the easement was estimated at $5.2 million and the Bank was asked to provide a grant of $1.7 million to be paid to the owners for the easement. The payment represents $3,034 per acre and is in line with grants in the first round of applications to the Greenbelt Bank. All the other applications, except that from the CIty, were for grants to cover the purchase of conservation easements and in all cases, the owners of the properties are to receive about one third the value of the easement. The value of the grants per acre ranges from $4,180 to $974. The application by the City of Charleston is not comparable as its grant is to purchase “fee simple” property

Rejection because of high cost per acre
The Bank rejected the application for $131,000 for an easement on the Oak Point property on Wadmalaw Island. It did not deny the attraction of the property but thought the amount sought, equal to near $22,000/acre too high. It directed the Low Country Open Land Trust to go back to the owner and seek a lower compensation. It suggested that $4,000/acre was more appropriate

The approved applications will now go to County Council for final approval.

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