Wednesday, October 24, 2012

From the House

Bluffton Today

With the election less than two weeks away, I want to encourage each of you to vote. There are so many things to be decided on the 6th of November, I’m hoping for a massive turnout to give those decisions the weight of support commensurate with their importance. While there are many things to be decided, none is more important, in my view, than the referendum to recharge Beaufort County’s land preservation effort. At issue is whether we want to allow Beaufort County to borrow around $25 million to continue one of the most successful conservation programs in the nation, the Rural and Critical Land Preservation Program. For those voting absentee, be sure to turn the ballot over because the referendum questions are on the back. Twice before, we have supported these referendums overwhelmingly, and I urge you to make it three times. My reasons are a combination of ethical, economic and personal.

As a developer, I know better than most that there are simply places that shouldn’t be developed. What kind of development would we allow on the Altamaha Indian village site near Callawassie Island? Would we knock down Fort Fremont for the sake of some waterfront condos? I think not. We developers are business people, not vandals. My entire career has been about creating value, not destroying or diminishing that which makes our community culturally and environmentally rich.

Much of the work of Rural and Critical has been around Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, and done in partnership with Dept. of the Navy. Not only does it secure the future of the largest source of jobs in the county, it is done with at least a 50% federal match. The same is true in partnering with the Dept. of Agriculture to purchase development rights on and around St. Helena so that farmers can remain farmers and not be forced to sell out by development pressure. The program has kept those jets in the air, jobs on the ground, and local food on the table. That’s a powerful case for building on more than ten years of Rural and Critical successes.

Rural and Critical has also been protecting the headwaters of the Okatie River for years and is now working around the headwaters of the May River. If we are ever going to get a handle on our water quality situation, the headwaters of our estuaries are where it begins. One of the reasons I, and our delegation, worked so hard to keep the state Conservation Bank intact was to have more potential partners for Rural and Critical. Half of Beaufort County is under water at high tide. If we let our pristine water quality slip away, we will, in effect, drive away our visitor base.

Finally, both our children are currently off at school. Mary and I would love more than anything to have them decide to make their lives in our community, to raise their children where we have raised ours. It may be wishful thinking, but we know they are moved, as are we, by the beauty of our place, the pristine waters, and the greens of the marsh and the maritime forests. Rural and Critical, along with the other land preservation programs, allows us the chance to keep what brought us here, what sustains us, and literally what feeds us. On November 6th, please do your part.

Next week, more water quality news from Capt. Dave Harter about the 5th Annual Taste of Waddell Celebration. It’s your chance to experience fresh local seafood prepared by one of the best chefs around.