State and town of Port Royal officials came together Wednesday night on what many of them saw as a step toward the redevelopment of the Port of Port Royal.
A new development agreement was struck between the town and the S.C. State Ports Authority after town council approved a five-year pact on a 4-to-1 vote. Councilman Vernon Deloach voted against the agreement.
"I think we're much closer to getting this thing done even than we were a year ago," Councilman Joe Lee said.
The new agreement is needed because previous ones have expired. The last purchase attempt, by the Port Royal Redevelopment Group, fell through last summer when financing could not be finalized.
Along with adding provisions for property improvements and other clauses, the agreement essentially puts in place the planned unit development agreement from that last purchase attempt, town attorney Frances Cantwell said.
"The PUD sets out zoning for the property and tells you what you can do, where you can do it, and what you can build," Cantwell said.
The new agreement keeps restrictions such as a limit of 425 residences and 250,000-square-feet of commercial space. It promises the dry dock some residents call an eyesore will be torn down.
It also allows the town to start public infrastructure improvements such as extending and repairing the boardwalk, which will connect to a proposed promenade along the length of the port. The town has a $150,000 state grant to begin the work.
Deloach urged fellow councilmembers to hold off approving the agreement to allow time for a new appraisal to be finalized and to examine details more carefully.
"I've heard the term, 'let's get on with it,' and I'd like to get on with it, too," he said, "but not if it's not right."
Ports Authority attorney George Bullwinkel said the appraisal is expected by the end of the month. Authority representatives explained the final appraised value will include a deduction for millions of dollars worth of infrastructure needs on the property.
Although the 317-acre port -- 52 acres of which are buildable -- has attractive features such as deep water and a long coast line, it is a difficult property to develop, authority attorney Neil Robinson said.
"It's not a walk in the park, or it would have already been done," he said.
Authority representatives said they, too, want to sell the property and are willing to do what's needed to make that happen.
Lee said there also will be increased communication between real estate firm Nai Avant, which is marketing the land, and the town.