Port Royal residents are still a long way from seeing progress on the sale of state-owned property along its waterfront.
The 51-acre property long-awaiting development along Battery Creek is still in S.C. Ports Authority hands almost two months after the deadline ending its control of the sale. A state law passed in 2014 to speed up the sale said control of the property must be transferred to the Department of Administration’s General Services division for appraisal and auction if the sale didn’t close by the end of last year.
Ports Authority attorney Neil Robinson said the deed is drawn up and ready to transfer. The process is in the Department of Administration’s hands, he said.
The Department of Administration is reviewing the deed and ensuring state law is followed to complete the transfer, spokeswoman Kelly Coakley said. She didn’t offer a timetable for the transfer.
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“I would expect this thing will all be done here pretty shortly,” Robinson said Thursday. “We don’t see anything that’s going to hold it up.”
The 51-acre property long-awaiting development along Battery Creek is still in S.C. Ports Authority hands almost two months after the deadline ending its control of the sale.
He added that the Department of Administration’s process includes securing a certificate of acceptance and being sure the transfer doesn’t require General Assembly’s Joint Bond Review Committee approval.
Following the transfer, a new appraisal must be conducted. The property must sell at auction for at least 80 percent of the appraised value.
A pending right-of-way lawsuit against the town and Ports Authority was thought to potentially slow the sale’s process. Some property owners along the former railroad line south of Ribaut Road are claiming rights to the property and seeking damages.
The lawsuit will have no effect on the transfer, Robinson said.
In a response to the lawsuit, the town of Port Royal denied the property owners’ claims. Town manager Van Willis has said he expects the town to be dropped from the suit because it doesn’t own the property and hasn’t entered any agreements related to the railroad property.
The Ports Authority this month was granted until mid-March to file a response so that defense of the suit could be handed off to the Attorney General’s office. Deputy Solicitor General Emory Smith will defend the Ports Authority in the lawsuit, according to the order granting the extension.
In December, after a $15.42 million deal to purchase the port property had fallen through, the Ports Authority board directed staff to transfer the property for auction.
“I think we need to fully comply with the law, and the Ports Authority doesn’t need to be in the non-operating real estate business,” Ports Authority president and CEO Jim Newsome said in December.