County Green Space Program Passes Final Vote--Council Outlines Spending Plan if November Referendum is Successful


Friday, October 7, 2022 11:55 AM

County Council has passed the Beaufort County Green Space Program outlining how the proposed 1 percent sales tax would be spent if passed by voters on November 8. The tax will be sunset after two years and estimated to collect up to $100 million.

The ordinance as passed reads: "The Beaufort County Council recognizes the need to preserve land that has scenic, natural, recreational, rural, and open space character which is deemed essential to the County's quality of life; and in recognition of the negative consequences which are often associated with environmentally unsustainable levels of development."

Spearheaded by Sen. Tom Davis, the state of South Carolina adopted the "County Green Space Sales Tax Act" ("Act") in May of 2022, which is designed to empower counties to undertake land preservation efforts.

If passed by voters, Beaufort County Green Space Program provides guidelines how lands may be protected and enhanced as economic and environmental resources of significant importance. It will encourage landowners to make a voluntary long-term commitment to conservation by offering landowners financial incentives and security of land use.

The program will preserve open space; protect critical and natural resources; and/or provide land for recreation, and allows for the purchase of development rights and fee simple interest in lands threatened by development, which, if it occurs, will have detrimental effects on land use patterns, traffic, public safety, stormwater runoff, water quality or other conservation objectives.

Preservation procurements include open lands or green spaces located within and without, or both within and without, the boundaries of Beaufort County, other counties, municipalities, and special purpose districts by and through the acquisition of interests in real property. For properties located outside the geographic boundaries of the County known as Beaufort County, matching funds may be required.

To facilitate preservation procurement purchases, the Council will establish the Green Space Advisory Committee that will be a County Council-appointed seven-member committee with terms of committee members for four years.  

The makeup of the committee will be:

  • one member who is a member of the County Council;
  • one member who is a member of the Beaufort County Legislative Delegation;
  • one member who is knowledgeable about the geography and condition of Beaufort County's land;
  • four citizen members, each representing the County's northern, southern, eastern, and western portions.

The committee is a public body, and its members are subject to the South Carolina Ethics Act and must conduct their business in accordance with the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act that the program is transparent and equally distributes the funds within the County in the interest of Beaufort County residents.

The Green Space Advisory Committee will identify areas and types of properties to target for acquisition with the Greenprint Plan and the 2040 Beaufort County Comprehensive Plan as critical documents and make a priority list for the County Council to consider. 

Acquisitions of development rights secured through annexations, re-zonings, and/or other entitlements occurring after the adoption of this ordinance will be closely scrutinized, and use of/access to Green Space funds may be restricted or prohibited.

The committee will consider the following factors when ranking the properties

  • A jurisdictional letter of support or opposition for projects located in other governmental jurisdictions shall be required at the time of application.
  • The extent to which the acquisition will protect valuable natural resources, habitat, and water quality.
  • The extent to which the acquisition will result in the reduction of vehicle miles traveled and reduced the need for future roadway improvements.
  • The extent to which matching funds will be available for applications.
  • For purchases of existing development rights, how recently the property was entitled to development.
  • Submit to South Carolina Department of Revenue; Council approved program criteria and application process for acknowledgment.

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