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Greenbelts Urban Grants Review Committee

Grants totaling $8.4 million approved
Political decision on controversial Bear Swamp Road tract left to County
Warwick Jones

The Urban Grants Review Committee (UGRC) met yesterday to review the second round of applications for urban grants from greenbelt funds. In total, it approved $8.4 million, all for fee simple purchases. Grants to only two applicants received less than the amounts applied for - St Andrews Parish Parks and Playground and the City of North Charleston. In both cases, the appraised values of the land were less than the amounts requested.

Under the Comprehensive Greenbelt Plan, grants can be used only to acquire land only and to finance associated minor expenses, not structures. Also, grants cannot exceed the appraised value of the land. Existing structures inflated the value of the land to be acquired by St.Andrews Parish P&P. The Committee agreed to a grant of only $365,000, the appraised value of the land alone. The amount was $155,000 short of the purchase price. In the case of one application from the City of North Charleston, the appraised value was $10,000 less than the amount sought. Consequently, the grant was also $10,000 less.

Viewers can see a list of the applications and the amounts by pressing Download file

City of Charleston major recipient
The largest grants went to the City of Charleston. Under the formula devised by the Greenbelt Advisory Board, the City is entitled to about $9.9 million of funding in urban grants from the half-cent sales tax. After the grants made yesterday, totaling $6.6 million, $2.84 million remain for future projects.

The major request yesterday was for $3.893 million for the acquisition of property (Hall 11, Van Ness Tracts) in the Neck area totaling 32.6 acres. The request is 32% below the appraised value of the property. The site has some contamination which still needs to be addressed. The City plans to develop the site as an active park, with playing fields, a gym etc. and will be connected to the Rosemount and proposed Magnolia developments.

Committee does not address legalities of grant for Bear Swamp acquisition
The request for $1.41 million toward the purchase of a 212 acre tract on Bear Swamp Road should have been controversial but the request was granted with no dissent. The Commission agreed that per se, the acquisition was good value but declined to address any of the political implications. These they decided to leave to County Council.

The Greenbelt Bank has already granted the City of Charleston $1.4 million towards the purchase of this tract, which is located on the rural side of the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). Because the City has asked that the UGB be moved to encompass the tract, it is also requesting funds from the UGRC, which is tasked to distribute funds for projects on the urban side of the UGB. Deputy County Attorney Taylor did state at the beginning of the meeting that the strict interpretation of the Comprehensive Greenbelt Plan would preclude a grant from the greenbelt funds designated for urban projects. But the Committee chose to ignore this and to let Council decide. It was noted that the property lay adjacent to the UGB and that even under existing zoning, a substantial number of homes could be placed on the property.

The other request from the City was for $1.3 million to purchase a 9.2 acre lot on Woodland Road, off Ashley River Road in West Ashley. The lot will be developed as a neighborhood park.

North Charleston moves to protect marshland and waterways
North Charleston had 4 applications in total. All were grants to purchase land to protect marshland and waterways that could be threatened by development. The East Dolphin Street lot of 6.3 acres is close to Filbin Creek. The grant request was $94,000. The other lots on Rivers and Spartanburg Avenues totaling 26 acres - are close to the headwaters of Noisette Creek. The total grant requested was $612,000. The Committee granted $602,000, knocking of $10,000 because the appraisal of one lot was $10,000 below the request amount.

Grants based on land value alone, not on structures
The request from the St. Andrews Parish Parks and Playground was for $520,000 but the Committee cut the grant to $365,000. This figure matched the appraised value of the land alone. The members of the Commission protested saying that they could not buy the property without the existing structures and without a grant for the full amount of the purchase price - $520,000 - the deal was dead. The Committee sympathized but stated that the Comprehensive Greenbelt Plan called for grants to fund only the value of the land, not structures.

Other requests
Other requests were from the City of Folly Beach and two community associations. Folly Beach was requesting $218,990 to help fund the purchase of land at Cummings Point on Morris Island. A number of other entities had joined to fund the $5 million purchase. The Four Mile Community Association and the Phillips Community requested $250,000 and $200,000 respectively. The Four Mile Community wants to acquire a 1 acre parcel primarily as a buffer against commercial encroachment while the Phillips Community wanted to acquire 1.92 acres to develop as a community park.