South Carolina’s top financial panel on Wednesday approved the sale of a former port terminal in Beaufort County.
The Budget & Control Board gave its unanimous vote for the $15.4 million sale of the 317-acre Port Royal property to a Greenville developer. The vote came with no public debate, although the board did go into executive session to discuss some sections of the contract with Furman Investment Advisory Services.
The waterfront property near the center of Port Royal town had sat vacant ever since the General Assembly voted to close it in 2004. The Ports Authority had failed to reach a deal with three different potential buyers over the past eight years. Frustrated with the lack of progress, Beaufort County legislators eventually convinced the House and Senate to pass a new law that set a deadline for the Ports Authority to either sell the land by June 2015, or put the property up for auction.
That law allowed the Ports Authority to sell the property at less than its appraised value, if necessary. The agency still has not publicly said what that value is, citing the unfinished contract situation. In fact, when State Treasurer Curtis Loftis started to ask about the appraisal during Wednesday’s meeting, but was told his question was better suited for the executive session that is off-limits to the public.
Earlier this month, a local developer and other Port Royal residents sued the Ports Authority, claiming the agency had not acted as good stewards of the property. The lawsuit also claimed Beaufort County and the town had lost more than $7 million in property taxes while the land remained in state hands.
After the meeting, the Associated Press reports the governor told reporters the sale was in line with her goal of divesting surplus state property. “I have said for a long time that we don’t need to be in the real estate business,” she told reporters.
A Ports Authority spokeswoman said the contract will likely be finalized in the spring, as the developer has a 150-day due diligence period and 30 more days after that to close. Furman has not detailed its plans for the site, saying only that it will work with the town on a development plan .