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Greenbelt Bank, September 3

To provide $3.84 million financing for 9 rural projects
Limited funds and high values restrain enthusiasm for 2 others
Warwick Jones

The Greenbelt Bank approved without qualification 9 rural projects at its meeting yesterday, and agreed to contribute $3.84 million to their financing. However, Board members were mindful of the limited funds at their disposal and were cautious over two projects whose valuations they thought were too high. They agreed to provide financing but the amounts were less that those sought. Both applicants will now attempt to negotiate lower sale prices with the respective vendors or raise supplemental funds. For list of applications, Download file

The most impressive property amongst those considered yesterday was the 1088 acre Hermitage Plantation in the Ace Basin. The application was made by Ducks Unlimited which sought $375,000 to secure a conservation easement over the property. The fair market value of the property was estimated at $6.2 million and the easement value, $1.5 million. The owner of the property “contributed” the remaining $1.25 million as a match. The property is on the Edisto River. Only two structures are on the property and there are no subdivision rights. This was the first application made by Ducks Unlimited to the Greenbelt Bank. It was unanimously approved

Representatives of the other applicants were well known to the Bank board from previous appearances. The Edisto Island Open Land Trust had 3 applications, all for financing conservation easements over property on Edisto Island. As the Chairman of the Bank Board noted, the Trust had been very active and played a large role in securing conservation easements over a significant amount of Edisto Island – now approaching 50%. The total acreage covered in the three applications yesterday – Britton Family Property, Hasting Governors Bluff Plantation, and Mikell Peters Point Plantation – amounted to 372. All applications were approved unanimously with Greenbelt financing totaling $910,000.

The Low Country Open Land Trust also had successful applications for easements over 3 properties, on Edisto Island, Johns Island and near Awendaw. The Frogmore Property was relatively small at 46 acres but also hosted the Plantation House. It is on the Edisto River and abuts other properties with conservation easements. The Rashford Property on Johns Island was an aggregation of 7 contiguous parcels. As the Trust pointed out, there was limited opportunity to create easements on Johns Island. All financing approved by the Bank are subject to title searches and the Trust acknowledged yesterday that a landowner was disputing the boundary of one of the properties. It would not proceed until the title and boundaries had been assured, and this of course was a condition of Bank financing. The other property Wingwood, adjoins a property owned by SC Birds of Prey. The property will allow Birds of Prey to expand its conservation and education efforts. It also plans to allow public access to a major part of the new property. Total financing approved for the Trust amounted to $867,500 of which $507,000 was for the Johns Island aggregation.

The Nature Conservancy had two applications for properties near McClellanville. The first was for a conservation easement over an 1124 acre property, Hampton. The property abuts Hampton Plantation which is a state park. It also has a 3900 ft frontage to the Santee River. There are no buildings on the property but the owners retain a right to subdivide into 4 parcels. On one of the parcels there will be building envelope of 25 acres on which 5 houses may be constructed.

Hampton is slightly larger than the Hermitage Plantation which was discussed earlier. The estimated market value of the property was $7.34 million and compares with $6.6 million for Hermitage. However, the funding sought was nearly twice that sought for Hermitage. This did not seem to bother Bank board members, probably because at $625 an acre it was still excellent value. Members are also conscious that applications for financing easements over properties East of the Cooper have been fewer than for west of the Cooper.

The other property for which the Nature Conservancy (NC) sought funding was Oak Hill Farm. This was an unusual request. It sought $298,900 to buy 64 acres of the property and $327,000 to secure a conservation easement over the remaining 324 acres. The request reflected the fact that the 64 acres abutted a US Forestry Service property on 3 sides. It was the intention of the NC to give this parcel to the Service. The larger remaining area would continue undivided.

Two other applications before the Bank received approval, but with qualifications. The first was that of the Town of Hollywood. The Town was before the Bank for a 3rd time in an attempt to buy an 8 acre property, Wide Awake, to be used as park. Bank board members were all enthusiastic about the property. But they all were concerned about the high price. The original request from the Town was $5.6 million. The Bank asked the Town to seek a lower price. It did, but at $4.8 million members still baulked. The Board ultimately approved $3 million financing. Now it is up to the vendors to agree to such a figure or for the town to secure supplementary financing. There is also a possibility that the project will be abandoned.

Board member Cooper with a wry smile called the presentation by the Charleston Area Therapeutic Riding Inc unfair. The presentation dealt with the activities of the riding school and the role it played in serving disadvantaged children. The presentation was laced with moving photos of disadvantaged children enjoying themselves on the back of ponies and horses. As he alluded, it was unfair to inject such emotion to a board that was primarily concerned with the creation of greenbelts. By inference, he wondered whether the application was appropriate.

CATR was seeking $840,000 from the bank to purchase 37 acres next to its own 6.5 acres. It presently uses the adjoining acres. They were up for sale and to secure the school’s future, it wanted to purchase the property. It noted that if it received funds, it would expand its activities and open its properties to the broad community. And of course it would place conservation easements on both the acquired and presently owned properties.

Some other Bank board members seemed to have some reservation about the application and thought the valuation of the property too high despite the fact that the selling price had been reduced. But all were clearly moved by the aims and works of the school that any doubts about the appropriate use of funds was swept aside, The Board agreed to finance up to $700,000 for the purchase. Similar to the dilemma of the Town of Hollywood, CATR will need to seek a lower sales price or find supplementary funding.

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