What is the Ballot Question?
The Ballot Question reads as follows:
Q: Why Protect Land?
A: Our region is defined by the Port Royal Sound Watershed, saltwater waterways like the Broad River, healthy fisheries, rural farmland and thriving small cities and towns. Over 50% of Beaufort County is sale marsh. Our ocean-based tourism combined with our recreational opportunities and fisheries support nearly 79,000 jobs and generate more than $4.4 billion in GDP annually.
We have also become known for our fast-paced growth. In 2015 2.6 million vacationers and other visitors came to Beaufort County. This tourism industry generates $1.3 billion in economic impact and we are one of the fastest growing counties in the Carolinas – growing 24.3% over the past decade. It should go without saying, that if we are to maintain balance between our natural resources, economic growth and quality of life we must continue to invest in land protection.
Q: Why should I vote “Yes”?
A: A “Yes” vote will provide the citizens of Beaufort County a means to help preserve for today and future generations the environmental assets, quality of life and heritage that make it so worthwhile to live in this remarkable corner of South Carolina. It is the best way to safeguard the land we love. Preserving land is indeed an investment in our future.
Q: What have previous referendums done for me?
A: In simple terms, they have preserved and protected many of the natural, cultural and historical resources that may have otherwise been lost to residential and commercial real estate development pressures. More specifically, the four earlier referendums have preserved more than 24,000 acres throughout Beaufort County – from Hilton Head up to North of the Broad – including historic sites, conservation easements, several islands and the creation of new passive parks including the most recent Whitehall Park overlooking the Beaufort River.
Q: How much will this cost me and my family?
A: If approved by voters, the $25 million bond referendum will cost the “average” homeowner approximately $12 annually or $1 per month.
Q: What is the Rural & Critical Lands Program?
A: Authorized by Beaufort County Council in 1999 and levies the assessment to purchase lands for long-term protection. Land conservation is a complimentary tool for planning and zoning decisions. Protecting land which is deemed critical encourages rural land uses like farming and supports open space along rivers and marshes. In strategic areas it also reduces future traffic challenges by reducing real estate development potential. This is especially helpful outside of our urbanized areas where land protection can preempt traffic disasters along Highway 179 or 17.
Learn more about our Rural and Critical Lands Program here: Beaufort County Rural and Critical Land Preservation Program
Q: Why is more needed?
A: Several sections of Beaufort County continue to experience explosive growth. Although there are certain rewards to be gained – new jobs, new businesses, new neighbors – more and more of our natural, cultural and historical resources are being lost, turned into commercial and residential developments. Our highways have become increasingly crowded, and waterways more endangered.
Q: Why not enact ordinances to control growth?
A: Beaufort County cannot simply stop growing, nor do we want it to. Landowners have Constitutional right to use or develop their property as they see fit, within legal restrictions and zoning laws. Moreover, well-planned development does provide for a healthy local economy and the County tax base. For example, land conservation helps the U.S. military create safe buffer zones around installations, separating growing communities from land needed for vital training missions and safe installation operation. Defense is a key industry here in Beaufort County, where three major installations support nearly 15,000 jobs.
Q: So how is a proper balance achieved?
A: We can effectively control the growth of the County and protect essential waterways by negotiating the purchase of certain parcels of land that are critical for the quality of life we desire for future generations. In addition, we can purchase rural landowners’ “development rights” allowing them to continue traditional rural uses of their land, but not develop it. By passing the referendum at this time, we will be able to continue to preserve important portions of County open space and critical lands that might become too expensive to purchase in the near future.
Q: What kinds of land is being preserved?
A: The land preservation program strives to do the following:
- Purchase properties in high growth and already developed areas to address quality of life concerns such as traffic congestion, water quality protection, public recreation needs, etc.;
- Support preservation activities by non-profit groups such as the Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited and the Open Land Trust.
- Purchase buffers around military installations such as the US. Marine Corps Air Station – Beaufort. These buffers can help assure the jobs provided by these facilities (estimated at more than 14,000 in 2018) which are vital to the economic vitality of our County will remain.
Q: How are lands selected for purchase or preservation?
A: Candidate properties are submitted by the Trust for Public Land to the Land Preservation Board from several sources – landowners themselves, real estate professionals, concerned citizens, private land-preservation groups, land-use professionals, etc.
The Land Preservation Board, comprised of both landowners and knowledgeable real estate industry professionals, meets regularly to evaluate candidate properties. They prepare appropriate analyses and rank properties in accordance with criteria developed from the experience of other such initiatives around the nation but tailored to the unique features of the Low Country and Beaufort County in particular.
Q: Can property within municipalities/towns be candidates?
A: Absolutely. Beaufort County has a solid track record of purchases on Hilton Head Island, Bluffton and in the City of Beaufort as evidenced by the recent Whitehall Park passive park purchase. The program has paid specific attention to the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton area securing more than 650 acres including 3 historic sites and the creation of 4 new parks and preserves. It has been estimated that program purchases have eliminated the potential of more than 23,000 cars from Hwy 278 daily by buying up lands that would have been developed.
Q: What are “Development Rights” and how do they preserve rural areas?
A: The PDR program (Purchase of Development Rights) pays landowners to not turn their land into residential or commercial developments. That’s the only right the farmer gives up. He can still farm, give his land to his children, close it to hunters or visitors as he sees fit. The benefit to the rest of the County is that undeveloped land does not create additional traffic congestion, does not need sewer utilities, does not require as much taxpayer supported services as developed land while simultaneously preserving wildlife habitats, water quality and maintaining aesthetic landscape visas for passing vehicles.
Q: What is a Conservation Easement?
A. Easements involved working with a willing landowner who retains ownership of the land, but is compensated for reducing or eliminating the development rights on the property. The Beaufort County Open Land Trust holds many easements for the County. These conservation easements are effective because they are often cheaper than buying the land and keeping the land on the County tax rolls. We believe he program should continue to prioritize easements over outright acquisition in the rural areas because it helps our money go further.