Beaufort News

Deal to sell Port of Port Royal falls through

A deal to sell the Port of Port Royal property is off.

A Charleston developer and the S.C. State Ports Authority have mutually agreed to terminate a pending $16.75 million sale of the shuttered port, authority officials said Tuesday.

The 51-acre, state-owned property now will go back on the market, the latest chapter in a six-year effort to sell the land.

Gramling Brothers Real Estate and Development did not make a $50,000, non-refundable deposit due Tuesday, said Colden Battey, a Ports Authority board member and Beaufort attorney.

Battey said he didn't have any more details.

Ben Gramling could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Bill Stern, chairman of the ports board, declined to comment on specifics of the termination.

"There were certain guidelines spelled out in the contract," Stern said. "One of the key dates was today."

Port Royal Town Manager Van Willis said title issues regarding several smaller pieces of property within the 51 acres -- as well as concerns about a 225-slip marina permit -- influenced Gramling's decision to step away from the deal.

Willis called the news "disappointing."

"There were quite a few folks determined to make sure the deal didn't go through, and here we are," Willis said.

The Gramling Brothers signed a contract in May that split the sale into two $8.375-million phases -- a detail that concerned former Gov. Mark Sanford.

Sanford and others in the community were concerned about the Gramling Brothers' preliminary plans for the property -- specifically the elimination of a 10-acre, passive waterfront park at the end of London Avenue, where homes would be built instead.

Efforts to sell the port date to 2004, when Sanford ordered it closed and sold.

At least one other deal -- with a group of investors in 2008 -- also fell through.

Juliann Vachon