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County Council, February 11

Mead/WestVaco development comes closer to fruition
Greenbelt Plan fundamentals reaffirmed
Warwick Jones

There was not too much on the agendas but yesterday’s meetings were lengthy. Much of the time was taken up by a presentation by a spokesman for Mead/WestVaco in relation to plans for its large property in the western part of the County. And then there was a presentation by the consultant to the County on the Greenbelt Plan.

MWV has received much praise for its efforts in shaping a plan for its78,000 acre area of which about 42% is in Charleston County. It received more praise last night on the completion of the presentation which outlined the principles and concept of the plan. Much of the plan is already known and we will not attempt a full description. Suffice to say that the company is making great efforts to preserve green space and to avoid sprawl. It estimates that 75% of the property will be retained as green space though if buffers were included around towns and “corners”, the percentage would be higher.

The full implementation of the plan is projected to take up to 50 years and would see the creation of towns at both the northern and southern past of the property There would also be a number of “corners” created over the area with no more than 320 dwellings in each.

Staff warned Council that there are many issues that would have to be addressed over the coming months and some would require changes to ordinances. In particular, the plan envisaged the use of “form based” code in zoning unlike the present code. Council member Rawl also asked about the possibility of creating service overlays. The provision of fire and police services to the area was another issue that had to be discussed.

Not all members commented on the plan but it was warmly applauded by some.

Greenbelt Plan reaffirmed, though one Council member still unhappy
The presentation by Mr. Chuck Flink, principle of Greenways Inc. and a consultant to the County was also well received. Mr. Flink led the Greenbelt Advisory Board (GAB) in its early years as it shaped the County’s Greenbelt Plan. He stood before Council last night in support of the GAB’s endorsement of the original fundamentals of the Plan.

To recapitulate, late last year Council asked the GAB to look again at the Plan and recommend any changes. The request followed unease of some Council members over the use of conservation easements (usually allowing no public access) as opposed to fee simple acquisition (allowing public access). There was also a hint of social injustice in that large payouts were going to large landholders. The GAB revisited the Plan at a meeting in January, again with the assistance of Mr. Flink, and at the conclusion of the meeting, reaffirmed the Plan.

The resolution before Council was “The GAB is now recommending that Council reaffirm the Greenbelt Plan fundamentals and instruct the GAB to craft specific recommendations to include but not limited to, outreach to small landholders, further funding for urban unincorporated areas, and the urban allocation for beach areas”

Council voted in favor of the resolution but Council member Rawl was not happy and asked that the vote be reconsidered. It did not happen. He then made a request that the application process for greenbelt funds be amended. Presently, and as defined under the Greenbelt Plan, applications are assessed and given a score reflecting how they meet various criteria. Council member Rawl asked that the following criteria be added.

• The view of the property from the road
• Public access
• Needs of the applicant
• Adjacent to other greenbelts

His request was not adopted by Council.

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