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County Council, November 1

Rural greenbelt grants approved
$100,000 grant for marketing effort by the “Museum Mile”
Warwick Jones

As we anticipated, the Finance Committee approved the rural grants determined by the Greenbelt Bank at its meeting last month. The grants totaled $5.38 million. Coupled with those made in the first round of applications, the Greenbelt Bank has now approved about $16 million in rural grants. The grants are being financed through the half-cent sales tax. As reported some time ago, the County is to make a bond issue to facilitate the process and not wait for an accumulation of sales tax funds. Interest and amortization of the bonds will come from the sales tax. Of the bond proceeds, $60 million will be used to fund both rural and urban grants. Rural grants will be allocated 70 % or $42 million of the $60 million. After allowing for the latest round of grants, about $26 million remains available for distribution.

Also as expected, Council approved the grants to the City of Charleston for the purchase of property near Long Savannah but made no commitment to move the Urban Growth Boundary to encompass the development on the urban side as requested by the developer. The sale of the land to the City is conditional on the movement of the boundary. See Grants totaling $5.4 million approved by Greenbelt Bank , October 4 2007.

Council also had before it requests for funding from the Accommodation Fee. Some members were uncomfortable about the timing as decisions largely had already been made about this year’s funding. The most interesting request was from group representing the “Museum Mile”. The latter is a section of Meeting Street stretching from the Gibbes Museum to the Charleston Museum and encompassing not only these two museums but a number of other entities such as the SC Historical Society, the Children’s Museum, and the Washington Light Infantry.

The group requested a grant of $100,000 from the County to begin a promotional and marketing campaign to draw more tourists to the attractions along the “Mile”.

Council members seemed to think it was a good idea but Council member Thurmond wanted to be sure that the impact of spending could be measured and asked for assurance that statistics of attendance be gathered. If the group came back for another grant, there needed to be substantiation of success

Council also asked whether the City had made a contribution, which it hadn’t as it had not yet been asked. From the answer, it seems that the “Mile” members thought the County was a softer touch than the City and approached it first. But Council said that as the “Museum Mile” was in the City, it was reasonable to make a request of it, and told the representatives to do so. The County made the grant conditional that any contribution made by the City should be passed back to the County to reduce its commitment.

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