Beaufort City Council took several steps forward Tuesday in its plan to buy the Beaufort Commerce Park to spur industrial growth and job opportunity locally.
Members, with Donnie Beer absent, unanimously:
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Dean Moss, the former chairman of the Lowcountry Economic Network, which previously owned the park, applauded the city's progress. The network went bankrupt last year when it could not afford the mortgage and sold the park at auction for $2 million to S.C. Bank & Trust.
"Creating a more streamlined development process out there will be helpful," he said,
The city has $1.033 million in a land-acquisition fund to put toward the purchase price, but Finance Director Kathy Todd has previously suggested council hold onto that money. Mayor Billy Keyserling said it could be used for debt payments and serve as a cushion if businesses do not buy land in the park.
Council must vote a second and final time on the changes.
Bond proposals are due in May, and financing for the park could be in place by the middle or end of the month, Todd said.
If the bonds are issued, the city could have annual principal payments of about $160,000 to $215,000, Todd said.
The city needs to complete the purchase within 60 days of the April 3 meeting when it approved buying the park. Keyserling said he has been working with the Lowcountry Economic Alliance, a private-public entity, on courting businesses for the park. He has not named those businesses.
Developer Merritt Patterson spoke in favor of the city expanding its horizons when it comes to development and asked it to consider a plot of about 200 acres held by several owners in the Burton area. That land, which includes his Beaufort Industrial Park, should also be considered for the same type of municipal assistance the city's park could receive, he said.
"...I think it's been overlooked," he said of the 200 acres. "I don't even think you're aware it exists."
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.