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Economic development: County buys 500 acres at industrial park

Georgetown County Council members agreed to two property purchases exceeding $1.5 million following a closed door meeting this week.

Council authorized staff to buy land on Highway 521 where an industrial park is under development, along with 5.5 acres near the airport.

The industrial park sits on more than 500 acres, but some of the land has already been conveyed to companies.

The county was originally supposed to pay for individual parcels at the industrial park as businesses agreed to locate there, but the owner, MeadWestvaco, was in the process of liquidating some of its holdings and expressed interest in selling the entire property.

“The timing was good and it’s very, very much to the county’s advantage to go ahead and buy it now,” said Council Member Jerry Oakley. “We have the money in the bank and there are a lot of advantages to owning the property when you’re trying to recruit industry. It gives you a lot more options.”

The county will pay $1.5 million and grant the company timber harvesting rights for five years.

“They’re not clear-cutting. It’s all per industry standards,” Oakley said.

Money for the purchase will come from the economic development fund.

The land near the airport comes at a price of $12,500 an acre, but only 2.5 percent will come from the county’s coffers. The FAA will pay 95 percent and the state aviation agency will pay another 2.5 percent.

Trees on the property have grown high enough that they are penetrating into the required glide path for the airport runway. The county opted to purchase the land instead of trying to negotiate long-term agreements with multiple property owners to trim the trees.

The county’s capital assets are growing steadily. According to an audit report presented to council last week, the county’s capital assets totaled about $113.8 million at the end of the last fiscal year. That was an increase of about $6.7 million.

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