The S.C. coastal town of Port Royal, again, has big dreams for a now defunct port property.
On Wednesday, the S.C. State Budget and Control Board approved allowing the S.C. State Ports Authority to sell more than 300 acres along the intracoastal waterway in the town of Port Royal, south of Beaufort.
The price tag for the now-defunct port property – made up of 52 acres of highland with the rest being marsh – is $15.4 million. Town officials said a mixed-use development plan, if realized, would bring the town about $1 million more per year in property tax revenues and clear up what has been a “blight” on the coastal community.
The town has a development plan that calls for 400 residential units, a marina and 250,000 square feet of commercial space, which could create between 300 and 500 jobs, said Van Willis, Port Royal town manager. Port Royal officials on Wednesday said that whoever buys the property would be bound by that development agreement.
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The deal marks the fourth contract on the port property approved by the State Budget and Control Board since the land went up for sale in the mid-2000s after the General Assembly ordered the Port of Port Royal closed in 2004. Three previous contracts approved by the board fell through, including a contract to sell the property for $17 million in 2011.
The five-member board, led by Gov. Nikki Haley, voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the Ports Authority’s most recent contract with the Furman Co., a Greenville-based commercial development firm.
“I have said for a long time we don’t need to be in the real estate business, so anything we can get rid of, we want to,” Haley said Wednesday after the meeting. “The fact that we are selling such a large tract of land is good for South Carolina ... and we’re glad we found a buyer for it.”
If this sale does not go through, the property could go to the auction block.
A new law passed this year says the property must be sold by June 30 – at 80 percent of the appraised value or more – or it will be transferred to the state Division of General Services and go up for public auction.
The State Budget and Control Board discussed the property’s most recent appraisal in executive session, saying it was a topic related to contractual matters and, therefore, could be discussed in secret.
In 2009, the Beaufort Gazette reported that the property’s value, at the time, was between $15.6 million and $16.3 million. In 2013, the land was appraised at $22.5 million, according to media reports.
Port Royal officials were excited Wednesday about the prospect of the property being bought and developed.
“It’s a big game changer,” Town of Port Royal Councilman Joe Lee said. Lee added that town leaders feel the deal is more promising than previous deals that have fallen through. The buyers met with town leaders early on and got their assurances that they would have the town’s support.
The Beaufort Gazette contributed to this report. Reach Self at (803)771-8658.