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Date:         Sat, 22 Jul 2000 14:17:02 -0400
Reply-To:     Barbara Passmore <passmore@DATASYS.NET>
Sender:       Georgia Birders Online <GABO-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
From:         Barbara Passmore <passmore@DATASYS.NET>
Subject:      Frequent Q&A - Greenspace Doc. 2 of 4
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"; format=flowed

GEORGIA GREENSPACE PROGRAM Issues Frequently Raised at the Rule Making Forums, May 31-June 19, 2000

Will the State stop providing funds to a county if it doesn't achieve 20 percent greenspace? The 20-percent figure is a goal, not a mandate. The Georgia Greenspace Program encourages local governments to envision how they want their jurisdictions to look 30 years or so from now, to decide what role greenspace will play in the community, and to take actions needed to make its vision into reality. The county will not lose funding if it does not achieve 20 percent greenspace, provided it has a goal of at least 20 percent and is making a good-faith effort to achieve the goal.

Will a county smaller than 60,000 people which has grown by 800 people per year become ineligible for funding if its annual growth rate drops below 800 before it attains 60,000 people? Yes. The statute's eligibility test for growth rate is the average annual growth between the most recent federal census figures and the most recent federal estimate of population. For the current fiscal year, this is an eight-year period between 1990 (census) and 1998 (estimate). For next year, it will be a one-year period between 1999 (estimate) and 2000 (census). Counties whose growth rates declined significantly between the censuses of 1990 and 2000 could become ineligible for funding in the second year of the program.

Since a city cannot access appropriated funds independently of a county, how will the State ensure that counties allow cities to participate in the program? To participate, an eligible city will have to enter into a cooperative greenspace program with the county. The Department will work with a county and a city which are having trouble cooperating, and it may use a conflict-resolution process such as the Department of Community Affairs' 489 process. However, if the local governments do not resolve the conflict, the Georgia Greenspace Commission may have to decide whether to approve the grant.

The statute requires a county to identify the specific parcels of land which are proposed for acquisition or protection. But this could upset landowners and excite speculative purchasing, driving up the price of the land. Do the counties have to give this much detail? The Commission will need to decide whether it will be acceptable for the county to prepare a schematic diagram of the greenspace it proposes to protect and a narrative description of the types of land it wishes to protect.

The statute also requires a county to identify any changes made in the comprehensive plan, to assure that the plan is consistent with the greenspace program. But it will take so long to amend the comprehensive plan that counties may not be able to qualify for greenspace funding in the program's first year. Can counties include in their ten-year strategy a schedule for amending their comprehensive plans? The Commission will need to decide whether this will be an acceptable alternative.

The state grant amounts are small, relative to the need for additional land. The program cannot by itself solve the shortage of greenspace statewide. It is designed to encourage counties to plan for many ways to set aside greenspace, using local, federal, state and private resources.

Can cities and counties agree to allocate the state funds differently than on a strict population basis as provided in the statute? The Commission will need to decide whether this will be acceptable, but the intent of the program is to provide as much flexibility as possible to communities as they set aside greenspace.

Can state grant funds be used for planning, development and operations on greenspace lands? The state funds are currently available only for the purchase price of land or easements, and for the appraisals, surveys, title insurance, and closing costs required to acquire land. The county does not have to provide matching funds, but it must commit to providing adequate stewardship of the lands once acquired.

Can sports fields and golf courses count toward the 20-percent goal? No. The focus of the program is on maintaining land in a relatively natural state and on water-quality protection. Sports fields and golf courses require intensive use of fertilizer and pesticides, and they require parking areas and, often, bleachers and buildings.

Does greenspace have to allow public access? There is no requirement that all greenspace offer public access, but the greenspace must be permanently protected to count toward the county's 20-percent goal.

How can counties give permanent protection to local greenspace without granting a conservation easement to another party? Greenspace purchased with Land and Water Conservation Fund moneys or with greenspace grant funds would count as permanently protected. Today, there is no way to count greenspace acquired with local, private or most federal funds except by granting a conservation easement or entering into a covenant with a federal agency. It may be necessary for the State and local governments to seek state legislation which would allow local governments to dedicate their own lands, in a manner similar to the state's Heritage Preserve dedication process.

How will the State ensure that a local government spends the grant funds appropriately and provides adequate stewardship for the lands thereafter? The local government will have its Community Greenspace Fund audited annually and it will carry on its capital account all lands that it wishes to count as greenspace. The local government includes these accounts in its annual audit report, and the Department can learn how the funds were spent and to what uses the local government is putting the land acquired. The grant award agreement will also require the local government to commit to maintain the greenspace properties.

Can a local government condemn land for greenspace purposes? The Greenspace statute has no effect on a county's authority to acquire land by condemnation. However, it is unlikely that condemnation would be widely used to acquire greenspace, because condemnation is politically unpopular and the state funds will fall far short of the lands available from willing landowners.

Can a city use their portion of the state appropriated funds to purchase land outside of the city limits or county borders if money is targeted for watershed protection? No, an eligible county must use its state appropriated funds only within the borders of that county. However, the city does have the option to use its funds outside of the city but only within the borders of the eligible county of which it received its state appropriated funds.

Are salt marsh lands and water included in the calculation of coastal counties overall geographic area? No, salt marshlands will be excluded from a coastal county's geographic area in the same way that coastal waters and man-made bodies of water in excess of 500 acres will be excluded from a county's overall geographic area. Salt marshlands, while not necessarily meeting the definition of permanently protected land and water under the Greenspace Program, are considered state owned marshlands and water bottoms, and provides substantial protection under the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act of 1970.

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