‘Almost like Charlie Brown’

The State Ports Authority is having trouble selling its former Port Royal marine terminal near Beaufort.

The State Ports Authority is running out of time to sell its former Beaufort County marine terminal on its own terms.

The latest deal fell apart last week, giving the maritime agency about two months to line up a buyer.

Otherwise, the former Port of Port Royal will go on the auction block if it isn’t sold by June 30 under legislation that Gov. Nikki Haley signed in 2014.

The SPA would have an extra 90 days to finalize a deal if it puts the waterfront site under a sales contract before the mid-year deadline.

The agency said its $15.42 million deal with Furman Co. Investment Advisory Service was terminated Friday “despite the good efforts” of the Greenville-based buyer.

“It became apparent that the time allowed by the contract to complete due diligence would expire with some of the purchaser’s requirements incomplete, leaving the purchaser unable to proceed to closing under the terms of the contract,” the SPA said in a written statement.

The ports authority “intends to solicit new offers for the property without delay.”

It’s the fourth time that a deal to sell the land has fallen through since 2006. It’s another disappointing turn for Port Royal business owners and residents who want the deepwater site to be redeveloped into homes and commercial space and provide a boost to the area’s economy.

“It’s almost like Charlie Brown,” said state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort. “You’re expecting Lucy to hold the football, and then at the last minute she pulls it away from you.”

The 317-acre site includes 52 developable acres on Battery Creek. The rest is marsh.

The SPA operated a cargo terminal on the property starting in 1958. The General Assembly ordered the port closed more than a decade ago and directed the SPA to sell the site. The original deadline was the end of 2009.

Furman was approved as the buyer in November. Its partner in the deal was Spring Island developer Chaffin-Light.

The company’s top executive, Stephen Navarro, said in a written statement that his group was “still very interested in the unique opportunity to re-engage the Town of Port Royal with its waterfront by the development of this property. At such time as the authority seeks new offers, we intend to pursue a continuation of our efforts.”

Davis, who has been following the sale closely, said the Furman-led group was a “bona-fide buyer.”

“I hope they’re still in the game,” he said Monday. “They put a lot of work into this.”

A bill that Davis co-wrote and that Haley signed into law in 2014 requires the former port be transferred to the S.C. General Services Division and put up for auction if a buyer isn’t secured by June 30. In either case, the property must be sold at least 80 percent of its appraised value. If auction prices don’t meet the minimum, the land would go back on the open market.

The site was appraised at $22.5 million in 2013.

Last year, a group sued the SPA, alleging Beaufort County and the town of Port Royal have lost more than $7 million in property taxes while the land remains in state hands. The lawsuit also said the failure to sell the property has hurt the local economy.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for Thursday in Beaufort County, SPA spokeswoman Erin Dhand said Monday. She said the authority believes the complaint is without merit.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.