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County Greenbelt Bank, May 1

Approves rural grants totaling $2.6 million
Another 1600 acres protected
Warwick Jones

In its meeting today to consider the first round of applications for calendar 2008, the County Greenbelt Bank approved rural grants totaling $2.6 million covering nearly 1600 acres. The major portion of the grants went to finance the purchases of conservation easements. Of the five properties considered, three were on Edisto Island, one adjacent to the town of Awendaw and the other close to the town of Meggett.

Probably a reflection of the work undertaken by county staff, there were few questions asked of the applicants, all of whom, with the exception of the town of Meggett, were conservation groups. All the grants were approved unanimously and without dissension. The application from the town of Meggett had a wrinkle but notwithstanding, its application was approved but with a condition.

Total could swell to $3 million
It is possible that today's grants may swell to $3 million. Two of the applicants planned to seek funding from the state Conservation Bank as well. As the Chairman of the Greenbelt Bank noted, and others agreed, Conservation Bank funding was uncertain this year and the requests may be rejected. The board indicated that it was sympathetic to higher grants for two of the applicants should their request to the Conservation Bank fail.

New park for PRC
The Nature Conservancy made the largest request today - for $1 million. It purchased the Two Pines property from International Paper, amounting to 813 acres, and was placing a conservation easement over it. The value of this easement was $3.6 million, and it sought $1 million from the Greenbelt Bank to cover 27% of this amount. It is the intention of the Nature Conservancy to sell the property to the County Parks and Recreation Commission at a “bargain sale price”. No subdivisions will be possible with the creation of the conservation easement. The property has a 1 mile frontage to Highway 17 and adjoins the Tibwin Plantation near Awendaw and the Francis Marion Forest. It contains both wetlands and uplands, with a diverse wildlife.

Conversion of a shrimp farm
The Edisto Open Land Trust, made a request for $0.67 million for a conservation easement over the 504 acres known as the Paradise Shrimp Farm. It was described by the Trust as the most “strategic piece of land on Edisto Island” available for private purchase. About 242 acres of the property have hosted a shrimp farming business and contains a number of ponds. These ponds will be filled in and the Trust will convert the 242 acres to a natural landscape. An easement will be created that confines development of this part of the tact to 4 house sites or less and provides for a 250 foot buffer along Highway 174. The remainder of the 504 acre tract will not be developed at all.

The Paradise Shrimp Farm fits nicely with other easements created by the Trust and financed by grants from the Greenbelt Bank. All of these tracts lie on the southern side of Edisto Island and abut or are close to Highway 174. The Paradise Shrimp Farm has 1600 feet of frontage to the Inter Coastal Waterway.

The market value of the easement is estimated at $2.0 million and the Trust is seeking $667,000 from the bank and $333,000 from the State Conservation Bank.

Two other application for Edisto Island properties
The Low Country Open Land Trust had two applications before the bank, both relating for funding conservation easements on Edisto Island. One was for Cassina Point to cover the purchase of an easement over 104 acres. The value of the easement was estimated at $797,000 and the Trust was seeking $265,000 to fund the purchase.

The other property was Gun Bluff Plantation ll comprising 156 acres. The market value of this easement was estimated at $1.74 million and the trust is seeking $435,000 to fund the purchase.

Meggett seeks to create a large park
The application by the Town of Meggett was for $210,000, to purchase 8.9 acres close to the center of the town. Unlike the other applications before the bank today, the town of Meggett is to buy the land. If it succeeds, it will create a park and provide access to the water. The value of the land was estimated at $335,000 and the town plans to make application to the Conservation Bank for the remainder of the purchase price.

There were two wrinkles in the application. The first was that the owner of the land is prepared to sell to any willing purchaser, and according to the spokesman for the town, the owner believes the market value is about $375,000. Secondly, some of the residents of the town are not happy about that proposed plan to create a park. But the town hopes to persuade these residents that it is a good thing.

The board approved the application and gave the town of 12 months to sort out its problems. It told the town to come back again if the Conservation Bank refused its application.