Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Barnes' Land Plan Spans State 40 Counties Eligible for Greenspace Funding

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Barnes' Land Plan Spans State 40 Counties Eligible for Greenspace Funding

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Forty counties containing 73 percent of Georgia's population would be eligible for land-preservation grants under Gov. Roy Barnes' greenspace initiative, the governor said yesterday.

"Those of us who grew up here remember walks in the woods, swimming in lakes or rivers . . . and vacations in the mountains or on the coast," Barnes said as he unveiled the proposal during a news conference. "I want our children and our grandchildren -- and their children's children -- to have those same memories."

Under the governor's bill, which will be taken up initially by the Senate, eligible counties wishing to qualify for the funding would have until Jan. 1, 2001, to submit a plan to protect 20 percent of their undeveloped land and have that plan approved by the state Department of Natural Resources. The money would be distributed based upon each county's contribution in property taxes to the state.

Barnes has asked the General Assembly for $30 million for the greenspace initiative in the fiscal year that starts July 1, plus another $20 million for preservation along the Chattahoochee River.

To be eligible for the money, counties must have a population of at least 60,000 or have experienced an average annual population growth of at least 800 people since the 1990 census.

The 40 counties that meet those criteria stretch from near suburban Chattanooga, Tenn., in Northwest Georgia, through metro-Atlanta to the Athens and Augusta areas, then southeast to the Savannah area and the southeastern counties of Glynn and Camden.

"This is pretty well where we're losing 50 acres of green space a day [to development]," he said. "[But] these fast-growing counties are strapped for funds to create passive areas and park areas. This provides a source of money for them to do it."

Barnes said participation in the program would be voluntary, an important concern of county officials eager to preserve their right to home rule under Georgia's Constitution. …

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