The Port of Port Royal property has finally been transferred from the S.C. Ports Authority, four months after state law mandated the transaction.
But closing a potential sale is still at least, months away.
The Department of Administration’s General Services division, which now controls the property, has 30 days from the April 22 transfer to hire an appraiser. Thirty days after the appraisal is complete, the property will be listed for public auction, where it must sell for at least 80 percent of the appraised value.
Bids will be accepted for 90 days after the property is listed.
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Before the property was transferred, the department had to determine how a lawsuit related to an old railroad right-of-way might affect the appraisal and sale, Department of Administration spokeswoman Kelly Coakley said Wednesday. There were also other administrative steps and due diligence to be completed before the transfer, she said.
She declined to offer a timeline for the appraisal, saying the process would last long enough for the appraiser to do a thorough job.
Councilman Tom Klein said Wednesday he was frustrated with the pace of the transfer but hopes the law will work now in expediting the process.
“There are defined gates now that have to happen once that property is transferred,” Klein said. “Hopefully things will move forward at a more acceptable pace for me and the residents and town as a whole.”
Selling and developing the property has been the dream of Port Royal residents and officials since the port closed in 2004 and the town crafted a plan for the land. They want to return the waterfront to the public and reap the expected boost in property taxes.
Several steps remain before that plan can begin to be realized.
The state has hired a consultant to outline expectations for the eventual appraiser’s work, Department of Administration attorney David Avant wrote in an email to town manager Van Willis in April. The consultant, a certified appraiser, is reviewing past appraisals and talking with people who have been involved with the property, Avant said.
Willis met with the consultant Wednesday. Avant told Willis the search for an appraiser will begin with three potential candidates the town recommended. He also invited Willis to be part of the hiring committee for the eventual appraisal.
Past appraisals have been a point of contention for potential buyers, who believed the planned residential area south of Ribaut Road was priced too high. The Ports Authority declined to release its appraisals on the property.
State law orders the Department of Administration to post the new appraisal on its website and give it to anyone who asks.
The law passed in 2014 mandated the port sell by the end of 2015 or be transferred for public auction. The property may sell in part or whole at auction as long as the price meets the minimum requirement. The Ports Authority will still receive the proceeds from the sale but no longer has control over the process.
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.