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State Ports Authority has plan for property on Daniel Island, Thomas Island

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CLICK TO ENLARGE. The S.C. State Ports Authority plans to sell 50 acres of its land on Daniel Island to the S.C. Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department for recreational space. (Map/S.C. State Ports Authority)

The S.C. State Ports Authority finally has plans for hundreds of acres on Daniel Island that were at the center of a failed port expansion plan nearly 20 years ago.

Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said the agency is trying to divest itself of any real estate not directly related to port operations on Daniel Island and Thomas Island.

Fifty of the 1,300 acres the port owns on Daniel Island will be leased to the S.C. Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department for 99 years for the purpose of passive and active recreational space, according to an agreement announced today. The lease fulfills a state budget proviso.

About 350 acres of the land will be used for private development and a saltwater mitigation plan for the state.

The remaining 900 acres will be used for dredge disposal needs from harbor deepening and other projects.

For the development piece, The Daniel Island Co. plans to acquire a small parcel, roughly 40 acres on the northernmost tip of Daniel Island, for a residential or mixed-use development. No lease or sale has closed at this time. The land is currently zoned light industrial and would require a zoning change, Newsome said.

The port, along with S.C. Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Charleston, and state Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Charleston, hope to use the remaining 310 acres for a saltwater mitigation bank. Similar to a wetlands mitigation bank, saltwater would be conserved to offset adverse impacts from other companies’ projects.

“Saltwater credits are few and far between,” said Barbara Melvin, the port’s senior vice president for external affairs, who noted that credits would be available during permitting processes if the saltwater bank comes to fruition.

For a saltwater mitigation bank to be created there, the original creeks and creek beds would have to be restored. The bank would require numerous regulatory approvals from agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District, and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, Melvin said.

The ports authority also plans to offer to sell its six plots on Thomas Island to the original owners for the original sale prices. The ports authority bought the land — roughly 50 acres in Berkeley County — in 1997 and 1998 with the intention of building a port terminal and an access corridor.

The expansion project, which was called the Global Gateway, was scrapped after public outcry derailed the plans and legislative support fell away. In 2001, the ports authority withdrew the permit request to build the terminal, which was originally planned to face the Wando River.

The S.C. Legislature told the ports authority to sell the property in exchange for the Navy Base Terminal in North Charleston, but it included an easement requiring an access corridor so a bridge could be built to access the property.

With no Daniel Island terminal, Newsome said that easement requiring access is no longer needed. The ports authority board voted unanimously today to allow Newsome and port management to move forward with the potential contracts with the former owners.

“We are anxious to get out of the real estate business that does not have port operations on it,” Newsome said.

Officials declined to share the previous owners’ names. Newsome said two previous owners have expressed interest in buying the land back for the same price. If the other former owners decline, the port will sell it on the open market.

“By transferring 50 acres of land and also offering other port property on Thomas Island for sale to its previous owners, we’re helping protect local quality of life while returning some property to the private sector,” Grooms said in a news release. “It’s a great example of what can be accomplished when we work together to determine sound public policy.”

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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