Port Royal land under contract

More than two years after a promising deal to sell the State Ports Authority's waterfront land in Port Royal fell apart, the agency has a new contract -- and a bid that's nearly $10 million lower than the previous offer.

Officials will not name the prospective buyer. The SPA's board of directors on Tuesday votes on whether to approve the $16.75 million signed contract, which also requires the state Budget and Control Board's blessing.

Asked about the lower price, SPA spokesman Byron Miller said it still comes in above the appraised value, a figure the Charleston-based agency declined to release while marketing the property.

Miller said the agency hopes to close the sale within nine months.

The General Assembly ordered the 50-acre Port of Port Royal in Beaufort County closed in 2004, and the SPA put the land up for sale in 2005. In March 2008, a prospective buyer, Port Royal Harbour LLC, pulled out of a $26 million deal to turn the land into a mixed-use real estate development.

Representatives within the partnership blamed the decision on the real estate downturn and difficulty getting funding in the tough economic climate.

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Last June, lawmakers overrode Gov. Mark Sanford's veto of an SPA restructuring bill last June that, among a host of requirements, set a deadline for the agency to sell the land.

Sanford issued a statement about the deal late Friday.

"We're excited for the sale to go through, and that the Ports Authority and state can fulfill those promises made to the people of Port Royal," he said. "This has been an issue important to me for many years, and I look forward to reviewing it at the Budget and Control Board meeting."

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or abird@postandcourier.com.