MOUNT PLEASANT -- Patriots Point's board decided at a retreat Thursday that it would consider selling some of its land, allow that property to be used for residential development and require that the land generate an income stream.
The board members met away from its usual meeting space onboard the aircraft carrier Yorktown, instead gathering in a conference room at a local hotel.
They spent a full day hashing out the hurdles ahead as they consider a master plan for the 367 acres of prime state-owned waterfront real estate and the looming debt to maintain an aging fleet of warships.
Developers told the board earlier this fall that the property could hold a value of $180 million if the agency chooses to rethink entirely how it uses the site. The panel took that first step with Thursday's vote.
Only Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails dissented, saying he felt uncomfortable supporting the motion without knowing the potential affects on traffic and town services.
"We don't want to see 200 single-family homes at Patriots Point," Swails said.
Patriots Point executive director
Mac Burdette, former Mount Pleasant town administrator, said the vote allows discussions with developers to proceed. Burdette said he received two such inquiries in the past few days.
The retreat included information from a town official on the zoning process for the land and from an attorney on the importance of making the deal profitable to developers, including those already leasing part of the site. They also learned the approval process through the S.C Budget and Control Board required for any transaction involving state-owned property.
Board Chairman John Hagerty pointed out that the agency can look to federal or state funding, private investment or land sales to generate the money it needs to survive.
"I think you're going to find this may be the only solution," Hagerty said. "When the Laffey was sinking, it was ready to go into the water, perhaps pollute the harbor, we ... raised $30,000 (from private sources) on a $9 million project. I don't see us raising money in the private sector."
He added that the attraction must identify an income stream to match its cost needs and then decide from there how to shape the military museum's future, including how many ships it features.
"I don't even want to look at the master plans right now," Hagerty said. "I want to get down to the basics of can we cut a deal?"
He noted that Patriots Point had to borrow $9 million from the state to make emergency repairs to the Laffey. The debt has not been repaid.
"We have deteriorating other ships. The time for pretty pictures is over," Hagerty said.
The board will consider three master plans developed for the area over the past few years and use the best elements of each to move forward.
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594.