It looks like a prospective buyer is serious about bringing new life to the shuttered Port of Port Royal.
The S.C. State Ports Authority board passed a resolution Tuesday to sell its port site in the town of Port Royal for $17 million to a buyer not yet publicly identified.
The board's 8-0 vote is a good sign. The historic town desperately needs to see new uses in place for the 51 acres that for half a century were used as a port. Homes and businesses -- and the tax dollars and economic energy they would produce -- are a promising thought when one looks at the forlorn fences and shuttered buildings there today.
It's a beautiful tract, on deep water and hundreds of acres of marsh. Port Royal is already a great place to live, and this should improve that, if handled correctly, by adding vitality.
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The state Budget and Control Board must now approve the sale. It might come up at its Aug. 9 meeting. If that hurdle is cleared, the buyer would then have time for due diligence and inspection before the sale could close.
The community has seen other offers fall by the wayside since the state closed the port in 2004. But it can be encouraged by the Ports Authority board's confidence in the new potential buyer and that a suitor surfaced quickly after another potential buyer backed away earlier this year.
Mayor Samuel Murray and town manager Van Willis need to tell the public how the new buyer would deal with issues raised the last time a sale seemed imminent.
How will the town and the buyer deal with the 10-acre park that the existing development agreement calls for? The last buyer wanted to build houses there instead. Some members of Town Council and the public objected to that, while others said a park that size was too much and homes would help the town more.
The last potential buyer also had concerns about restrictions on a proposed marina of more than 200 slips. What is that all about? The public needs to know.
Will the new buyer be allowed to buy the land and develop it in stages, as the last buyer wanted to do?
The town manager said this week: "We are both pleased and impressed with what (the new prospective buyer) intends to do."
The public needs to know what those intentions are.
Willis has said the new buyer is aware of the open-space issue raised previously.
And any changes to the existing development agreement would have go through public votes with public input.
But everything possible should be done now to keep the public apprised on topics that have been divisive in the recent past.