South Carolina’s top financial panel on Tuesday gave its approval to the purchase of a 4,600-acre island currently owned by media mogul Ted Turner.
The State Fiscal Accountability Authority signed off on the request from the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism to buy St. Phillips Island for $5 million. The move was the final hurdle PRT needed to clear before it could close on the property.
PRT Director Duane Parrish told a legislative panel last week that Turner is selling the island for a third of its original asking price. “The opportunity to buy a barrier island at a substantially discounted price, I think, looking ahead to future generations, if we don’t do it I think it would be a mistake,” he said at a legislative hearing last week.
The agency envisions the island east of Hilton Head could become a getaway for companies or vacationers who are able to reach it by boat. Parrish said long-term plans include potentially opening Turner’s old beach home for the public to rent. The agency also purchased those boats and vehicles already on the island as part of the deal.
However, some legislators question paying for $5 million for an island not reachable by car. State Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, wondered why Turner would sell the property.
“Buying this island could be like dating Jane Fonda,” he said, referencing Turner’s ex-wife. “If Ted Turner can’t make it work, what makes you think you can?”
Parrish said Turner is agreeing to sell the property at less than appraised value so he can use the difference on his taxes before year’s end.
Under the current plan, St. Phillips will eventually become a unit of Hunting Island State Park, which is located nine miles to its east.