Open Space Bond: Greenways, Conservation, and Recreation
Open Space Bond: Greenways, Conservation, and Recreation
In November 2022, Buncombe County voters had the opportunity to vote on the Open Space Bond, a funding project that would increase conservation of lands, construction of greenways, and development of passive recreation lands. The bond passed with 68.8% voter approval. Over the past few months, County staff and community board members have discussed plans to utilize bond funds, gather public input, and provide transparency in the processes.
A view of a farm conservation project in Buncombe County.
At the heart of the Open Space Bond are goals to preserve the natural beauty of Buncombe County, increase the quality of life for its residents, and improve access to recreational activities in the area. Over the next seven years these goals will be met through cooperation between landowners, staff from Ag and Land Resources and the Recreation departments, community boards, and the Board of Commissioners.
For each area of the Open Space Bond, criteria are developed for evaluating project proposals. Criteria allow relevant boards and commissions to equitably assess project merits. Once the bonds passed, work began to develop criteria for both greenways and passive recreation lands. Both the Parks, Greenways, and Recreation Advisory Board and a joint subcommittee of the Land Conservation Advisory Board and the Parks, Greenways, and Recreation Advisory Board (called the Passive Recreation Lands Subcommittee) will work with the community to develop criteria over the coming months. Conservation projects will rely on existing criteria already in use in Buncombe County. Stay tuned for both in person and virtual events these boards will host to gather public feedback. Interested community members can also attend board meetings and offer public comment. Check out the Boards and Oversight tab of this page for more information about upcoming meetings.
Boards and Commissions
Boards and commissions are critical entities in the Open Space Bond project process. Four boards will have roles in evaluating projects, giving feedback, and ultimately moving approved projects to the Board of Commissioners for final funding decisions. These boards include the Parks, Greenways, and Recreation Advisory Board, the Passive Recreation Lands Subcommittee, the Agricultural Advisory Board, and the Land Conservation Advisory Board. In general, Buncombe County boards are made up of industry professionals and passionate community members who receive critical information from relevant departmental staff, such as Parks and Recreation Services. In addition to the subject-matter specific boards, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution at its Aug.16, 2022 meeting establishing a General Obligation Bonds Community Oversight Committee. This committee will oversee the financial and legal requirements of the Open Space Bond Fund and the Affordable Housing Bond Fund.
Getting involved with a board is a great way for an interested community member to stay up-to-date with new and existing projects, ask questions and offer public comment, and increase overall transparency in the process. Those who are not able to attend live meetings can watch the livestream or recorded meetings on this site under the Boards and Oversight tab.
Each relevant board reviews their own proposals against their judging criteria and moves approved projects to the Board of Commissioners for final decisions.
The Open Space Bond Funds support three different kinds of project proposals, but each application process will be relatively similar. Once application windows or request for proposals (RFPs) are launched, interested individuals or organizations will complete application materials and submit them. The application process for conservation is continuously open and can be found here. For example, a land conservation application would be reviewed first by departmental staff at Buncombe County Ag and Land Resources. Department staff have an important role to play in researching project applications, gathering additional information, and vetting applicants. Once project applications clear this initial step, proposals are sent to relevant boards to initiate evaluation criteria reviews. Boards may request additional information, a site-visit, or a presentation from applicants. Boards complete their rating process and vote to recommend proposals. If a project is recommended by a supportive board, their proposals are then sent to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners for final review and ultimate funding decisions.
This basic application process will occur in greenway, passive recreation land, and conservation projects.
Join the Buncombe County Open Space Bond team and Parks & Recreation department for an informational event at Richmond Hill Park on Thursday, Aug. 10th, from 4-7 p.m. Anyone interested in attending can experience passive recreation opportunities firsthand and engage with the Open Space Bond team. Share your thoughts on the future of Open Space in Buncombe County and gain deeper insights into passive recreation. ?
Board of Commissioner's Review Final Greenway Criteria
Board of Commissioners Briefing: June 6
Board of Commissioners Meeting: Requested Adoption , June 20
Boards and Commissions review Public Input and Draft Criteria
Community Input Window for Passive Recreation
Board of Commissioners Approve Finalized Conservation Criteria
May 2, 2023
Community Input Window for Greenways Criteria
Bond Oversight Committee Members Selected
Feb. 21, 2023
Open Space Bond Passes
Nov. 8, 2022
Bond Oversight Committee Applications Accepted
Learn more and apply to the Bond Oversight Committee here.
Bond Oversight Committee Established by Buncombe County Board of Commissioners
Passive Recreation Lands Application Window Opens
Buncombe County’s Open Space Bond will open its first project funding application window and will be releasing supporting application guidelines for Passive Recreation Lands projects on January 16, 2024.
Board of Commissioners approved the final set of criteria
On October 17, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved the final set of criteria for evaluating project proposals for the Open Space Bond. If a proposed project meets this set of qualifying criteria, it is moved to a weighted criteria process where a range of factors are considered.