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Greenbelt Advisory Board

Final recommendations on changes to Greenbelt Plan
To go to Finance Committee on May 13
Warwick Jones

The Greenbelt Advisory Board (GAB) determined its final recommendations on changes to the County’s Green belt Plan at yesterday's meeting. Generally, they were little different to the draft recommendations made two weeks earlier. The latter were reviewed in the light of public comment over the last 2 weeks.

The public response was hardly overwhelming. There were 22 comment forms submitted, probably as many as could be expected given the time frame. However, the comments were generally very supportive of the proposed recommendations. The highest support, 20 respondents, was for no change in the weighting of criteria for assessing rural applications, no change in funding in the Urban Unincorporated Areas, and for an update of the County greenspace inventory. The lowest level of support was 17 votes for a marketing campaign though there were 2 votes with no opinion.

The meeting started with a short comment from the Mayor of Sullivans Island. Similar to that for other beach communities, the allocation for Sullivans Island was insufficient to create meaningful greenspace. The Mayor was hoping to use greenbelt funds for maintenance but as Chair Maybank told him, this was not permitted in the Greenbelt Plan - minor improvements but not maintenance. And the GAB was disinclined to recommend a change.

Discussions then moved on to the recommendations. The first was the most controversial and generated most of the debate during the session. It related to Outreach to Small Landowners. The draft recommendation was that staff works with the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy (MPLC) to develop a procedure for projects with small landowners.

A representative of the MPLC indicated that the trust was open to working in other areas of the County. Concern was expressed about the limited funds of the trust and its ability to manage easements and property in future but the spokesman, acknowledging the difficulty of the times, was confident that funds would continue to be raised particularly with its enlarged role. The Chair also stated that the easements could be transferred to another trust should the MPLC fall on difficult times.

Because of the limited amount of funds that would be made available, $1.2 million, it was suggested that a minimum assessment score be determined using the same criteria in the Greenbelt Plan. There was a fear that the funds would be depleted quickly on a first-come first-served basis. A minimum score should ensure that only good properties/easements were funded. The staff was to deliberate on a minimum level and come back to the GAB.

The GAB approved the original recommendation with the amendment for a minimum score.

There was little discussion on the remaining proposed recommendations. The chair and staff had made minor changes in the wording of some but this was for clarification and did not change the substance of the recommendations. The GAB approved them all.

The other recommendations in summary were

  1. No change in allocations to Urban Unincorporated areas
  2. Allow beach towns to spend their fund allocations on minor improvements on land they own. The improvements would be those allowed under the Greenbelt Plan – boardwalks, foot bridges, unpaved trails, unpaved roads and unpaved parking lots.
  3. No change in the weighting of criteria used for assessing rural projects.
  4. No recommendation to use more of the tools mentioned in the Conservation Tool Box in the Green belt Plan.
  5. Greenway Corridor Goal be amended to restate the goal as 200 miles instead of 1200 acres, and to include trails developed through the Roadwise program and other partnering agencies in meeting this goal.
  6. The County’s greenspace inventory be updated and include properties outside the Greenbelt program.
  7. A marketing plan/ strategy be initiated. Funding will come from the Greenbelt Administration budget. A draft of the plan/strategy will be presented to the GAB for approval.

The recommendations will now go to the Finance Committee. A Public Hearing will be held on May 18 and the recommendations will go to Council that night.

The author is a member of GAB

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