Beaufort News

There’s a new plan for a marina at the Port of Port Royal. Here’s how it might look

Drone offers different look at the Port of Port Royal

Developers of the Port of Port Royal are expected to close on the property on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. Hurricane Irma and other Atlantic Ocean storms pushed the closing date back.
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Developers of the Port of Port Royal are expected to close on the property on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. Hurricane Irma and other Atlantic Ocean storms pushed the closing date back.

Developers have submitted updated plans they hope will bring yachts, live-aboard sailors and a variety of recreational boaters to Port Royal’s waterfront.

The proposal includes space for more than 200 boat slips off a main dock 1,100 feet long, parallel to the Battery Creek shoreline. The proposed permit would also allow for a three-story building on the water to house restrooms, a lounge area and marina offices.

The marina project is part of an effort to develop the former state port terminal into a mix of commercial and residential uses. Grey Ghost Properties plans restaurants, shops, homes and a hotel as part of the 50-acre property connecting the town’s Old Village to the water.

“The marina is the key,” said Chris Butler, a member of the development group. “It’s a driver of bringing people down together.”

A marina at the site was first permitted in 2009 but never built. The recent proposal is for changes to the original permit.

A 63-foot tall boat storage building remains part of the proposal, which also calls for demolishing and rebuilding the town shrimp dock. Both were part of the redevelopment plan when the marina was first proposed but now are likely not feasible, Town Manager Van Willis said.

The Port of Port Royal was a state terminal that closed in 2004. The S.C. Ports Authority spent more than a decade trying to sell the property before Grey Ghost Properties purchased the land in 2017 for $9 million.

The property includes multiple large, vacant industrial buildings; boat storage and sales near the Sands Beach boardwalk; and a seafood restaurant, Fishcamp on 11th Street. A portion of a new road has been built near the restaurant as well as near sections of the Spanish Moss Trail, a biking and walking path that will eventually run the length of the port property and join the rest of the trail.

A town-operated seafood market that burned in a fire in 2015 hasn’t been rebuilt.

The future of the current shrimp dock is undecided. Port Royal operates the docks as it did when it was owned by the Ports Authority.

When the shrimp dock was sold to developers, a development agreement called for the town to take ownership. The town and developers are still working on details of that deal with a September deadline.

In the meantime, volunteers have formed a nonprofit organization to support the local seafood industry at the docks. The Port Royal Pirates Club is selling shrimp at a pop-up retail operation under a tent near the dock several days a week.

Sixty percent of the sales go to the shrimpers, and 40 percent to the town, organizer Lorene Nans said. Only one boat is currently working from the dock, Nans told Town Council on Wednesday.

Seven boats at the dock are disabled or abandoned and need to be removed, she said. The group hopes to make room for 10 working boats, Nans told council members.

Town officials are deciding whether to continue operating the shrimp dock, invest in new seafood facilities or turn the operation over to developers.

The proposed storage building, with space for 250 boats, would be a logistical problem with a popular local seafood restaurant next door, Willis said.

And there’s already a similar facility nearby.

Butler, the development member who is also a local boat dealer, already operates a boat storage facility in a building he reopened last year on the southern end of the port property. Earlier plans called for that building to be torn down, which is why a new facility was included with the marina permit.

Butler said developers have no plans to build another similar facility. The proposed location of a new storage building — shown on drawings as adjacent to Fishcamp on 11th Street — does not allow enough room to operate, and the property is too valuable for other uses, he said.

More restaurants are planned in the same area, developers have said. Butler said the boat storage remained in the proposal because the developers didn’t want to delay the permit request.

Butler told Town Council he will ask regulators to remove the building from the permit request now that the public notice has been issued.

The updated marina configuration is the result of an economic study to determine what was most in demand. Plans include long-term annual and seasonal leases, short-term dock space for traveling boaters and day-use dock space for visitors wanting to shop and eat.

Docks would extend up to 375 feet into Battery Creek, a little more than a third of the width of the tidal river.

Butler said there is no timetable for marina construction and that developers will look to partner with a company to operate the facility after the new permit is issued.

State and federal regulators are considering the permit application and accepting public comments.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will accept comments for 15 days from the June 26 notice — until July 11. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control will have a 30-day comment period from the notice date — until July 26.