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Greenbelt Bank, April 3

A summary of last year’s Greenbelt financings
Considerable funds remain
Warwick Jones

The meetings this week of the Greenbelt Bank and the Greenbelt Advisory Board (GAB) had a common feature - a summary presentation of the greenbelt program by Cathy Ruff, Director of Greenbelts Programs.

After deducting that portion allocated to the Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC), $96 million was available at the beginning of last year for the County’s Greenbelt program. As recommended by the GAB and adopted by Council, the funding split would be 70% for rural projects and 30% for urban i.e. $66.5 million for rural and $28.5 million for urban.

$16.2 million allocated for rural projects
At the end of calendar 2007, the Greenbelt Bank, tasked with determining the rural allocations, had approved 21 projects and with funding amounting to $16.2 million. After deducting this amount, $50.3 million remains for distribution for rural projects. Ms. Ruff also noted that the Bank funding had a total match of $40.6 million. This match came from contributions from the State Conservation Bank, other Conservation groups but more particularly, from the owners of the properties who sold the development rights for amounts well below appraised values. In total, 5,524 acres were conserved under the rural program last year at a cost of $2,922 per acre.

Applications in the latest round closed at the end of last month and there were 6 applications. These covered the conservation of 1,851 acres and sought Bank funding of $3.4 million. The Bank will consider the applications at its next hearing.

Urban grants - a different process
Urban grants are made through a different process. An Urban Grant Review Committee oversees the grants but the main initiative is left to the municipalities. The GAB recommended and the Council agreed that the $28.5 million in urban grants should be allocated to the municipalities in the ratio of their respective populations. In consequence, the City of Charleston was allocated $9.9 million, North Charleston $7.9 million and Mount Pleasant $4.9 million. Other municipalities, because of their smaller population received much smaller allocations - e.g. Kiawah Island $120,361 and Seabrook Island $129 365.

City of Charleston spends over 70% of its entitlement
The City of Charleston has moved aggressively and at year end had used $7.043 million of its available funding. This contrasted with North Charleston and Mount Pleasant which had used only $702,000 and $270,000 respectively. Ms Ruff noted that the City of North Charleston had 5 requests for funds in the round just closed and the City of Charleston 1 request. In total there were 6 requests for a total of $2 million.

In the GAB meeting, Ms. Ruff noted the problems suffered by the smaller communities. It was well and good to have an entitlement, but with the cost of land being what it is, the entities were too small to buy anything of significance. We also note that at meetings of the PRC and Council, members of those bodies had commented on the high cost of land in Mount Pleasant and the difficulty f securing sites.

Funding for all urban projects amounted to $9.6 million last year, leaving $18.9 million for future distribution.

The Greenbelt Bank Annual Report for 2007 is on the County web site. We expect the 2007 report for the Urban Grants Review Committee will be posted sometime in the near future.