The Rural Greenbelt Program has two primary ways to execute what the voters of Charleston County have approved and what the Greenbelt Advisory Committee has adopted and recommended to the Greenbelt Bank Board: fee simple land purchase or the purchase of conservation easements.
As the Rural Program winds down, the Greenbelt Bank Board has approved 28 fee purchases, protecting 3,423 acres at a cost per acre of $10,511; a total expenditure of $35,988,429.
The Greenbelt Bank Board has approved 50 easement projects protecting 12,761 acres at a cost per acre of $1,619; a total expenditure of $20,665,741 for these projects.
Landowners who have used the easement program have provided a match of $65,852,086. This is primarily the value of the easements donated by the landowner.
All of these projects have been approved by Charleston County Council, most without controversy.
Three of the principal reasons the program has worked so well are the thorough study by the Greenbelt Advisory Board prior to the program's implementation, Charleston County Council's thoughtful appointments to the Greenbelt Bank Board, and superb county staff members who are dedicated to the program.
In the last 25 years, approximately 734,986 acres in South Carolina have been protected by easements, the vast majority of these being donated easements.
Only Charleston, Dorchester and Beaufort counties have funds available for land protection, and based on the costs of easements, this is a valuable and economical tool for land protection. Providing funding for easements allows land-poor individuals, who want to see their land protected, that opportunity.
Easements are complicated, in-perpetuity documents which require land owners to assess their current and generational needs. However, the commitment is an emotional attachment to the land and its protection.
Easements provide enormous public benefits by protecting vistas and water quality, controlling urban sprawl, providing habitat for wildlife, and allowing land to remain on the tax base with no cost to the county for maintenance.
In the scoring system adopted by the Greenbelt Advisory Board, only five out of 100 points were allocated in the scoring model for public access. The most important factors are: distinguishing characteristics - 10 points; environmental features - 10 points; historical and cultural features - 10 points; funding and leveraging - 15 points.
As created, this program is designed to protect important tracts of land, and we feel this has been accomplished. Every transaction has been thoroughly reviewed by the county's staff, the Greenbelt Bank Board and, lastly, by County Council.
One of the things South Carolina can be proud of is that we are a leading state in land protection, and the Greenbelt Program has played an important role in this success.
Hugh C. Lane Jr.
Greenbelt Bank Board
Louise J. Maybank
Greenbelt Bank Advisory Board