Two major obstacles to the plan to develop the port of Port Royal were overcome Wednesday night.
Town council members approved a plan to use a special tax district to pay for up to $4.5 million in public infrastructure -- roads, stormwater drainage, parks and a waterfront promenade -- and the borrowing of that money until the special tax district takes effect. Both votes were four to one, with councilman Vernon DeLoach opposed.
After months of hashing out details and airing concerns, residents and council members at the meeting had scarcely a word to left to say.
"Did we beat that horse to death?" asked Mayor Sam Murray.
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The Port Royal Development Group is poised to purchase and develop 52 acres of the port from the state Ports Authority for $17 million. Town officials have said a tax increment financing district is essential for the success of the project because of the amount of work that needs to be done.
The tax district would let the town use taxes generated by new development and increased property values to pay for the public improvements.
The town needed Beaufort County and the Beaufort County School Board to participate in the tax district to get the maximum benefit. With the county council's approval in hand, town officials were only awaiting the school board's approval, which came Tuesday night.
To get the school board's OK, Port Royal officials agreed to cap the district's contribution at $300,000 annually and not to include money collected from taxes on owner-occupied homes.
The development group can now move forward with the sale and development at the port, and the town can move forward with financing the loan for the public projects, town manager Van Willis said.
Work will begin once financing the loan has been completed.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeonPortRoyal.