A state-owned port property ripe for development in Port Royal will go to auction with a minimum bid millions lower than previously listed.
A new appraisal released Tuesday by the Department of Administration values the property at $6.95 million. Before being required to hand over control of the sale, the S.C. Ports Authority’s most recent minimum bid requirement was $14.8 million and in the past had been listed for $22.5 million.
Bidding will open Jan. 1, and sealed bids will be accepted until March 31. The property must sell for at least 80 percent of its appraised value.
The drastic price cut offers hope a deal will soon close on the 317-acre property along Battery Creek, of which a little more than 50 acres can be developed.
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“They’ll be ready to hop on that,” longtime Port Royal Mayor Sam Murray said. “I knew it was going to be lower, but I didn’t know it was going to be that low.”
The former South Carolina port was closed in 2004 and ordered sold. Since then, at least five development groups have tried unsuccessfully to buy the property from the Ports Authority.
A $26 million deal fell through in 2008. The most recent attempt was a $15.4 million offer terminated in December 2015.
Some of those suitors could be back to try to grab the deal at a fraction of the cost.
State Sen. Tom Davis, who with Rep. Shannon Erickson authored a bill in 2014 to take control of the sale from the Ports Authority, ripped the agency again during a Beaufort County delegation meeting Tuesday.
“I think the Ports Authority has a lot to answer for,” Davis said. “If they are capable of shame, they should be ashamed.”
Reached on Twitter, Ports Authority president and CEO Jim Newsome said Tuesday he is out of the country on business and referred questions to the Department of Administration, adding that the sale is out of his agency’s hands. A phone message left with former Ports Authority board chairman Bill Stern wasn’t immediately returned.
The Ports Authority never made public its appraisals, Davis noted. But the new law mandated control be turned over to the state’s General Services division and a new appraisal be conducted.
The appraisal and methodology were included in the Department of Administration’s post Tuesday.
A listing for the property went live Tuesday on the website of CRBE, the real estate broker managing the sale. The listing include photos and drone video, the appraisal, environmental assessment and other relevant documents.
Appraisers found no evidence from contamination from the port’s past uses moving phosphate, lumber and cement powder. The appraisal report said the value could change with changes to construction and development costs.
Port Royal town manager Van Willis predicted the property would sell for more than the new appraised value.
“It will certainly attract more potential buyers at that value ... which in our opinion should have probably been the value from the get go,” Willis said.
Several ongoing issues affected the appraisal and sale process, Department of Administration director Marcia Adams wrote to Beaufort County’s state lawmakers in September.
Property owners along a former railroad line along the port property south of Ribaut Road sued the Ports Authority in December 2015, claiming rights to the rail property. The appraiser had to account for the ongoing lawsuit and potential buyers will be made aware of the case.
CBRE would recommend not selling the property while the lawsuit is pending if it wasn’t required, the letter to lawmakers said. The sale process and timeline was laid out in a state law and its provisions passed in 2014 to speed along the deal.
The letter also noted potential issues with the development agreement and the process of rebuilding the town’s shrimp market on the port property that burned during a fire last year.