The city of Beaufort is fast-tracking a proposal to buy the Beaufort Commerce Park for $1.85 million.
City council Tuesday night unanimously granted initial approval to the plan to purchase the 209 acres from S.C. Bank & Trust and annex most of it.
Final votes on the purchase and annexation are scheduled for a special meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.
If the purchase plan is approved then, the city will have moved to make the offer just two weeks after Mayor Billy Keyserling publically proposed it March 20. He said it had been discussed in executive session earlier.
The special meetings was called because council's next regular meeting is not scheduled until April 9.
Keyserling said Tuesday night he will be out of town in two weeks. Additionally, he said there are "active prospects" interested in locating in the park who would like assurance the purchase will occur. He declined to name those prospects,
He said after the meeting several businesses have been to Beaufort, looked at the park and are "narrowing their options" on whether to locate there.
"The time is now to go after better jobs for the people who live in Beaufort County," he said.
The city has about $1.033 million in an account for land acquisition that could be used for the purchase. The remainder would likely be financed by a bond, city manager Scott Dadson said.
The plan is to buy the land, use the Lowcountry Economic Alliance as a marketing arm to attract businesses and local schools to train potential workers.
The park has had problems in the past.
Last year, the Lowcountry Economic Network went bankrupt when it could no longer pay the mortgage. S.C. Bank & Trust bought the park at auction for $2 million.
The county consider buying the park but ultimately decided against it.
At that time, developer and Yemassee commerce park owner Charlie Marshall opposed a purchase by the county. He said Tuesday he still has reservations about the Beaufort plan and wants to talk one-on-one with officials about those concerns. Overall, however, he said he was supportive of the purchase.
"Maybe now (that) the country is out of the picture and you are really sincere, then maybe you can do that," he told council.
The four community members who spoke Tuesday commended the city for considering the plan, and the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce formally endorsed it.
"We're not in the business to turn profits here in the tangible means of green dollars," councilman Mike Sutton said. "This is the issue of
jobs ... ."
A final vote on needed zoning changes for the park would come at a regular council meeting later in April.