Beaufort County Council is considering a bond referendum for the November ballot to provide additional funds for the county's Rural and Critical Land Preservation program.
As background, the program was created in 1999 to implement policies of the 1997 Comprehensive Plan. The main purpose of the program is "to preserve open space and protect critical and natural resources" throughout the county. Over about 15 years, more than 22,000 acres have been preserved through the purchase of properties and conservation easements. Strong community support for the program is indicated by overwhelming voter approval in the three previous bond referenda.
Unfortunately, this popular program is under assault.
On June 2, County Council's Natural Resources Committee voted to add language in the proposed referendum that would allow using its funds to acquire properties for "economic development," a provision that was firmly opposed by the appointed Rural and Critical Lands Preservation Board and the Coastal Conservation League.
This language would be a drastic departure from the program's purpose and intent and would place the county in the business of land development.
This provision should be rejected by the County Council since it would fundamentally change the purpose and intent of the program from one of land protection to one where the county is a developer and real estate speculator. If Council wants to pursue a land purchase program for economic development, it should do so in a separate program.
Coastal Conservation League