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Community : Top Stories Last Updated: Apr 29, 2014 - 8:09:19 PM

DI port land sale deadline extended again
By Elizabeth Bush
Apr 29, 2014 - 8:08:08 PM

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The South Carolina House of Representatives has passed a directive to give the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) another year to sell a portion of its near 1200 acre tract of land on Daniel Island. In addition, the SCPA has tentatively agreed to donate a small amount of acreage to be used for a possible regional or state park.
Both actions, pending approval in the Senate, are included in a legislative proviso written by Rep. Jim Merrill of Daniel Island, who sits on the State Port Oversight Committee. The SCPA would have until June 30, 2015, to sell the 495 acre parcel. As per state law, the land is to be sold by the deadline or it will revert to the control of the State Budget and Control Board. The first target date, December 31, 2013, was extended last summer to June of 2014.
“Movement continues at a glacial pace,” said Rep. Merrill, of the process thus far. “The various entities that are directly involved with the property remain engaged in an ongoing dialogue on how to best adhere to the legislation requiring its sale.”
The new proviso, which is basically the same as the one enacted to extend the deadline last year, was needed as part of the budgeting process for the upcoming fiscal year, Merrill explained. The budget must still go to the Senate and the Governor for approval, he said.
The SCPA land on Daniel Island has officially been on the market since late 2009, after the legislature directed the Port to sell the property once it was determined it would no longer be used to develop a new “Global Gateway Port” on the island. The SCPA is retaining more than 600 acres on the island’s southern tip for dredging purposes. The parcel that is currently for sale is located on the island’s western side along the Cooper River.
“The SCPA continues to meet with the City and Daniel Island Company to ensure that the property is capable of being developed in a manner that is consistent with the current neighborhoods on Daniel Island and provides for the future needs of the Port with respect to spoil disposal from harbor dredging,” said Erin Pabst, SCPA public relations manager.
The previous downtrend in the real estate market has been blamed for some of the difficulties the SCPA has experienced in finding a buyer for the property, said Merrill. But also contributing to delays are access limitations and zoning restrictions. The only way into the parcel from Daniel Island proper would be via Daniel Island Drive, a roadway that was not built to handle heavy traffic.
“Obviously, it is difficult to sell property if one cannot access the land or guarantee its zoning,” added Merrill. “That is part of the reason selling the property has taken so long.”
There have also been challenges with certain properties not being contiguous, Merrill continued, while other segments have become fallow throughout the process.
“The City of Charleston, Daniel Island Company, and SCPA each have property in the affected area and certain rights pertaining to those properties,” he explained. “The City controls zoning along with two sections of land that are designated for parks. Daniel Island controls some property along with rights over entrance and egress. And the SCPA has property it is required to sell; along with a vast majority of acreage that it will retain and maintain.”
Merrill further stated that in an effort to resolve some of the challenges in selling the property, the SCPA has been receptive to donating a segment of its Daniel Island land for recreational use, in exchange for addressing the zoning, access and property line issues.
“The proviso moves a small amount of acreage to the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT),” he said. “The primary reason for choosing this agency is because it would insure that land is set aside for its intended purpose as a regional park and recreation space. Since Berkeley County does not have a recreation department, this is a logical agency to ‘hold’ that property until such time as the City, SCPA, and Daniel Island Company put forth an agreement.”
“There is no downside to parks,” said Daniel Island Company President Matt Sloan, when asked about the SCPA’s potential donation. “That would be great and it’s wonderful that the Port is willing to work with the State to make that happen…It’s a good step forward. We’ve enjoyed the conversations we’ve had to date with the Port, and we look forward to helping them meet their objectives.”
“The City has been working with the Port and the Daniel Island Company to make sure the development of the Port property will be consistent with the pattern of development on the island,” added Jerry Ebeling, director of parks for the City of Charleston. “The City does own land at the end of the island where we do intend to build a park. We are also aware of the budget proviso calling for the donation of land to the PRT and we are interested in learning more about its plans.”
While there are a few steps remaining in the approval process for the proviso, Merrill is confident things are moving in the right direction.
“It is important to realize that the budget must still go to the Senate and the Governor and there will be many changes,” he said. “And while there are many hurdles that remain, I truly believe that all parties are working in good faith toward finding a resolution. It is just frustrating that it is taking so long.”

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