Town of Port Royal earns show of respect

The town of Port Royal is finally getting the respect it deserves for the major role has played in the the effort to sell the state port site.

The S.C. Ports Authority closed the port in the small town near Beaufort in 2004. Since 2006, the authority has been trying to sell the site that the town sees as the key to its future.

Three different developers have tried to buy the tract for residential and commercial building, but none has made it to closing.

In the process, the town was relegated to a third-party role even as it was asked to do a lot of time-consuming and expensive planning and financing work to make a deal possible.

In addition, the 52-acre site remains fenced off to public access and has had precious little maintenance done over the years.

Following the most recent failure by a would-be buyer to close the deal, the ports authority is treating the town with greater respect.

It hired a landscaping company to hack down plants, clear scrub and pull down vines overtaking fences and buildings. The cost is $5,200.

That will be an ongoing need, and the ports authority should have an ongoing contract to maintain the property and to be a good neighbor.

Just as important, the ports authority agreed to pay for legal, engineering and planning costs the town incurred in the past year in connection with a sale.

That includes $52,000 in legal fees the town and the Beaufort County School District paid to create a special tax district, the proceeds of which would be used to improve roads, sewers and parks connected to the port property.

The ports authority and the town should also consider formalizing their roles, perhaps with a contract. Port Royal is a small town with few financial resources, and the sale of the port site should not break it financially.

The town has repeatedly bent over backward to help make a sale happen. It has gone through the slow process of planning for the port site, with public input. It has done the meticulous work involved in entering development agreements. And it has worked quickly when it got the demand to set up the special tax district and prove to the prospective buyer that it could borrow $4.5 million to jump-start development.

The town also deserves aggressive marketing of the property by the ports authority to bring another buyer to the table.

That includes asking a realistic price for the waterfront tract. The ports authority is getting a new appraisal done, which is needed.

The town has been a good partner to the ports authority and potential buyers, while at the same time trying to represent the wishes of its residents. It deserves to be treated with the respect it has shown others.