Ports Authority, Port Royal continue talks about possible sale of port property to town

emoody@beaufortgazette.comApril 16, 2014 

The town of Port Royal is seeking $22.5 million to help purchase the Port of Port Royal, shown, from the S.C. Ports Authority.

DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff photo Buy Photo

Although an update on the sale of the Port of Port Royal merited only a few minutes of a S.C. State Ports Authority meeting Wednesday, chairman Bill Stern said it remains a priority.

Stern told authority board members that he continues to talk with town of Port Royal manager Van Willis about a possible town purchase of the property valued at $22.5 million.

The Port of Port Royal has been vacant since 2004, when the authority deemed it too expensive to continue operating. The Ports Authority has been ordered to sell the land, but three attempts since 2006 by developers to purchase it have fallen through.

It might require creativity if the town is to purchase the land.

Port Royal has a borrowing limit of $2.1 million, according to state law, and Willis said officials are continuing to explore financing options.

"The challenge we have is conventional bank lending is truly out of the question," he said.

Stern said interest by more traditional prospective buyers is perking up. He said he has planned meetings with four potential developers of the 317-acre property, which includes 52 buildable acres. Several other interested parties have visited the port in recent weeks, Willis said.

He has suggested the interest is spurred by the authority's decision to allow the sale of the land in three, predetermined parcels if it cannot be sold in its entirety.

That decision came after the Santa Elena Foundation offered $1.2 million for just less than 4 acres of waterfront property in January. The offer was rejected by the Ports Authority as being too low and for being for only a portion of the property.

Willis and Councilman Tom Klein attended the Ports Authority meeting Wednesday, even though the port was not an agenda item.

"Our purpose of being there was to show them that, 'Hey, we're around,'" Willis said. "Sometimes it's important to show your face."

Klein presented an updated copy of a petition with more than 300 signatures and a "SIN" T-shirt -- Sell It Now is a group of residents petitioning authority officials to hold an informational meeting in Port Royal.

Town Council members delivered an copy of the signed petition to the authority board in March, which Stern attended, Councilman Joe Lee said.

Asked about the petition after the authority meeting Wednesday, Stern said he was unaware residents were petitioning for a meeting with the Ports Authority.

"But as we go further along and have something to report, we'd be happy to go down and talk," he said.

Klein said he intends to keep attending the authority's monthly meetings and will encourage SIN members to do so, as well.

"I'm going to put it into my schedule for next month," he said. "I don't know if it's doing anything, but it can't hurt."

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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