County council to vote on possible Naval Hospital Beaufort site use

BEAUFORT -- Even though there are no definite plans to move Naval Hospital Beaufort across town to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, officials continue planning to get the most out of the 127-acre site if the hospital does move.

The Beaufort County Council will vote Monday on a recommendation from the town of Port Royal and the Lowcountry Economic Network to add the Naval Hospital Beaufort property to the multi-county industrial park shared by Beaufort and Jasper counties. The designation allows officials to offer business tax and infrastructure incentives to developers and incoming industries. The county's Economic Development Committee recommended approval last month.

Port Royal town manager Van Willis said the move is another by the town to ensure that the land has a viable future if the hospital moves.

"We want to make sure that if -- when -- the time comes in five or 10 years and the Naval Hospital moves, we're in the best possible position to market that property," he said. "We want to be in advantageous position when marketing it for re-users or buyers. We're trying to learn from the mistake we made with the Port of Port Royal property."

Willis said giving the Naval Hospital the designation might prevent it from sitting unsold for as long as the port property has.

The proposed relocation of the Naval Hospital is on a future projects list for Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast, which oversees Marine Corps and Navy construction projects in seven states, including South Carolina.

Congress has not approved funding for the new hospital, though an area behind the MCAS Federal Credit Union has been deemed the site for the proposed hospital, according to an air station spokesman.

The Navy said the soonest the project would begin is 2010.