Legal roadblock hits ‘inland port’

Gov. Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham were among the 200 guests who helped kick off construction of the State Ports Authority’s “inland port” in Greer on March 1. One problem: A warehouse business that leases part of the 80-acre site does not want to move.

The trains might not run on time to the $35 million railyard that the State Ports Authority hopes to open in the Upstate by Labor Day.

The “inland port” project in Greer hit a legal roadblock Tuesday when the maritime agency disclosed that a refrigerated warehouse business that rents part of property has refused offers to budge.

Citing the impasse, the SPA will now seek to force the company to move by seizing, condemning and demolishing the building.

Board members met by telephone Tuesday. After a closed-door session, they unanimously approved a proposal to “extinguish” the agency’s lease with Nordic Cold Storage through eminent domain.

They agreed in a written resolution that the inland port is a project that is in the public’s interest and that “condemnation is required for the benefit of the citizens of South Carolina.”

Don Schoenl, CEO of Nordic, said he was unaware of the decision and had no other comment Tuesday.

The SPA would not speculate about how long the condemnation process in Spartanburg County will take, and an out-of-court settlement is still possible, it said.

But time is of the essence. Jim Newsome, the SPA’s chief executive officer, said the ports authority remains committed to opening its 80-acre Greer outpost on Sept. 1.

“We need to get moving,” Newsome said.

The SPA announced the project in July, prematurely it turned out. About four months passed before relocation talks began with Nordic. Newsome said his agency was reviewing all its options during that interim.

“As plans rolled out, it become clearer and clearer this facility would have to move,” he said.

Atlanta-based Nordic has been renting about three acres of SPA-owned property near the middle of the inland port site since 1983. It has about 11 years left on its lease, which the SPA tried to buy out. An appraisal determined the value at about $900,000.

“We offered them a little bit above that as a bit of an incentive,” Newsome said.

The company has declined the offer. The SPA broke ground March 1 on its Upstate transportation hub, where shipping containers will be transferred between trucks and Norfolk Southern rail cars running to and from Charleston, some 220 miles away.

One goal is to provide a link between the local waterfront and port users along the bustling U.S. Interstate 85 business corridor, such as the nearby BMW car manufacturing plant. The site also is close to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, where FedEx and UPS have large air freight operations.

Newsome said the railyard cannot open unless the Nordic warehouse comes down. The SPA also plans to demolish a vacant building it owns on the site.

“It’s a pretty tight space,” he said.