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Greenbelt Advisory Board, March 23

Will stick with present system of allocations for Urban Unincorporated
Issues over rural scoring still to be resolved
Warwick Jones

The Greenbelt Advisory Board (GAB) yesterday continued its series of meetings to address issues directed to it by Council, and other matters. At the next meeting, scheduled three weeks hence, the GAB will need to decide on its recommendations, to enable time for a public hearing and submission to Council before Council begins time consuming budget deliberations.

The first of the agenda items addressed related to funding in the Urban Unincorporated – i.e. unincorporated areas on the urban side of the Urban Growth Boundary. It is an issue in that all the funds designated for this category - $2.9 million – are exhausted. It was argued that the allocations made on a “first come, first served” basis were unfair. Early project that received funds may have been inferior to those submitted later. Of the $2.9 million, $1.7 million went to projects in the Mount Pleasant area.

After some discussion, the GAB voted to leave the existing process unchanged. It was not that the GAB was happy with the process, but it could not come up with a better one. The total allocation for Urban Unincorporated was determined in proportion to the population of the Urban Unincorporated, similar to the municipalities. To break the allocation down into smaller defined areas, even if possible, would make allocations very small. These amounts would not be significant enough to make meaningful purchases of either easements or fee simple land.

The most important of the remaining issues related to “Rural Criteria with Prioritization for Conservation Easements”. It was here that the GAB attempted to deal with Council member Rawl’s request to give more weighting to public access and viewing, and contiguity with other preserved lands.

Presently rural projects are scored by staff with a maximum of 100 before submission to the Greenbelt Bank. The present system and the maximum scoring amounts are as follows:

A. Tell us about the project - 30 points

  1. What are the distinguishing characteristics - 10

  2. Where is it located and what is its size - 5

  3. How will the project address public access, use -5

  4. How will the Project be managed - 5

  5. Is the project ready for immediate action - 5

B. What makes the project special - 35 points

  1. What are the environmental features - 10

  2. What are the historical and cultural features - 10

  3. How is the quality of life addressed - 5

  4. What are the linkage opportunities - 5

  5. Is the project consistent with adopted plans - 5

C. How can we make the project work - 35 points

  1. Describe the funding and leveraging for the project -15

  2. Who are the financial partners -5

  3. What is the level of public support - 5

  4. Who are the non financial partners for the project -5

  5. The manner in which the project will be implemented - 5

Staff suggested, at least for discussion purposes, that the GAB consider adding “or benefit” to A3 and boosting the allocation from 5 to 10 points. It would take the 5 points from C4, “Who are the non financial partners for the project” which would be deleted.

It was not so simple. The Chair asked members of the public for their view and some representatives of trusts made their suggestions. The “How is Quality of Life addressed” question could be deleted as really it was covered in A3 with the addition of “or benefit”. Staff indicated no strong opposition. Others suggested that leveraging should rank more importantly. Both of these suggestions had some support amongst members

The Chair asked that GAB members consider the proposals and be prepared for a fuller debate at the next meeting before a final decision.

The GAB then moved on to the remaining issues on the agenda. When the Consultant addressed the GAB earlier this year, he suggested there were other tools in the Conservation Tool box that could be used to create greenspace. He summed them up under Regulatory Strategies to encompass a review of the legal framework. This in turn would lead to the amendment of ordinances to include, say large lot zoning, cluster developments, mandatory dedication of greenspace, and development impact fees

The recommendation left GAB members unmoved. It seems all considered that recommending such changes in ordinances were beyond the GAB’s role.

Other items on the agenda were Greenway Corridor goals, marketing of the County’s Greenbelt Plan, and outreach to small landowners. Regarding the latter, a representative of the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy made a short presentation. Now a registered non profit, the entity was originally formed and funded by the Town of Mount Pleasant. It has conserved 2 properties and is working on another. Funding has amounted to $200,000. Could it extend it activities beyond Mount Pleasant? Possibly, with the universal caveat, it all depends!

The author is a member of the GAB

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