Tuesday, October 23, 2018 Blog · News

Vote ‘Yes’ on Water and Land!

by Kate Schaefer

 

The Rural and Critical Lands Preservation Program enhances Beaufort County’s coastal economy, way of life, and small businesses like Larry Toomer’s Bluffton Oyster Company, captured here in a video by Beaufort County Open Land TrustThis November, you have a chance to support conservation on the ballot by voting ‘yes’ to a General Obligations bond. If passed, the referendum will generate $25 million for land conservation and Beaufort County’s Rural and Critical Lands Program.

This referendum would cost the average homeowner only $12 a year. You can learn more at http://voteyeswaterandland.org or view a sample ballot here.

What is the Rural and Critical Lands Preservation Program?

The program began in 1999 and levies your property taxes to protect land in Beaufort County. Today, more than 24,000 acres in Beaufort County are protected because of the program.

Land conservation is a complementary tool for planning and zoning decisions. Protecting land encourages rural land uses like farming and supports open space along rivers and marshes. Land conservation in strategic areas also reduces future traffic challenges by reducing development potential. This is especially helpful outside of our urban areas where land protection can pre-empt traffic disasters along Highway 170 or 17. Benefits of protected land to Beaufort County taxpayers include:

  • Increased property values. Parks, trails and open spaces raise home values. Beaufort County collects more than $1 million in additional annual property tax revenue due to the proximity of conserved land.
  • Cost savings. Protected lands provide natural absorption of storm and rainwater, saving Beaufort County taxpayers $27. 4 million annually in stormwater fees.
  • More revenue from tourism. Nearly 10 percent of all Beaufort County visitors travel here to visit our parks and open spaces—and they spend their money here, more than $115 million each year, representing $3.46 million in local tax revenue.
  • Healthier people. We all enjoy health and recreation benefits from being outdoors. Our ability to be outside, walk, run and enjoy the outdoors saves county residents an estimated $7.91 million medical cost savings.
  • More farms and better food. One hundred thirty-seven farms in Beaufort County generate $28.3 million in agriculture product value. These farms, either protected themselves or supported by a rural landscape of protected properties, provide fresh food for our community and South Carolina.
  • Jobs, jobs, jobs. Land conservation supports the local economy and provides jobs. Our local military bases are buffered by acres of protected land, supporting safe and long-term operations and 14,900 defense jobs.

Why vote ‘yes’?

Our region is defined by the Port Royal Sound Watershed, saltwater rivers, healthy fisheries, rural farmland and thriving small towns. More than 50 percent of Beaufort County is saltmarsh. Our state’s fisheries and ocean-based tourism and recreation support nearly 79,000 jobs and generate more than $4.4 billion in GDP annually.

But our region is also defined by fast-paced growth and development, popular beaches and tourist attractions. In 2015, 2.6 million visitors came to Beaufort County, and tourism generates $1.3 billion in economic impact.

Beaufort County is the seventh fastest growing county in South Carolina. Between 2014 and 2016, we observed a population increase of 4.6 percent. In 2015, the Beaufort-Bluffton-Hilton Head metro area was the twelfth fastest growing community in the nation, and Hardeeville was the second fastest growing city in 2015.

To maintain balance between our natural resources, economic growth and quality of life, we must continue to invest in land protection throughout the region. This November, please vote yes!

To maintain balance between our natural resources, economic growth and quality of life, we must continue to invest in land protection throughout the region. This November, please vote yes!


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