The town of Port Royal is asking the S.C. State Ports Authority, which owns land, for more property improvements and financial protection in a new development agreement discussed by Town Council on Wednesday night.
That includes removing the shuttered dry stack on London Avenue and construction of a waterfront promenade.
"Everyone is cautiously optimistic that with the slight turn in the economy we might have better luck this time than last time," town attorney Frances Cantwell said.
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The 317-acre port, with 52 buildable acres, has been closed since 2004, when the Ports Authority deemed it too expensive to operate. Since 2006, three developers have tried -- and failed -- to buy it for residential and commercial use.
The most recent attempt, by the Port Royal Redevelopment Group, fell through in September after four extensions during which the group tried to secure financing.
Since then, the Ports Authority has marketed the land for sale at $20.4 million, started an appraisal process and cleaned up some of the site. Spokeswoman Allison Skipper said the new appraisal is not complete.
The original development agreement between the Ports Authority and the town has expired. The proposed agreement discussed Wednesday has many of the same restrictions, including a limit of 425 residences and 250,000-square-feet of commercial space.
Cantwell told council the town is asking for other changes. The dry stack, which residents consider an "eyesore," would be removed within 12 months of the purchase of the land or by the end of the five-year development agreement.
The Ports Authority will allow the town to improve the Sands Beach and build the promenade so a state grant can be spent by its fall 2013 deadline, Cantwell said. Parks and the land the promenade is on will be given to the town within two years of a sale.
Town design and engineering costs will be paid by the Ports Authority, she said.
Council approved the first reading of the proposal Wednesday night, with Councilman Vernon DeLoach opposed.
"As you know, we've been too long in trying to sell this, and it looks to me like this is more of the same," he said. "A few minor changes, but more of the same."
Two public hearings and a second vote are needed. Cantwell said those actions could occur during January meetings.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnPortRoyal.