Friday, May 15, 2009

Lawmakers decide rail ownership, direct SPA to sell Daniel Island property

By Molly Parker
Published May 14, 2009

As lawmakers scramble to wrap up the current session, state senators sent the governor a massive state budget bill Wednesday that also transfers property rights of a controversial railroad line in North Charleston to a division of the S.C. Department of Commerce.

And in the House, lawmakers overwhelmingly gave key approval to a bill that would have far-reaching financial and governing implications on the S.C. State Ports Authority, forcing the agency to sell its valuable Daniel Island property by 2012, among other things.

Budget bill bequeaths railroad
The exchange of railroad ownership to Commerce from the Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority — the state entity created to divvy out the land when the Navy base closed — is called for in a one-paragraph amendment tucked inside the budget bill that stretches on for hundreds of pages.

The redevelopment authority is currently in a legal battle with the Noisette Co. over who has rights to the track and the land underneath it.

Noting it is a “very big budget bill,” Gov. Mark Sanford’s spokesman, Joel Sawyer, said the office is “not ready to weigh in on specific provisos yet.” The budget bill requires Sanford’s signature to become law.

Sanford has already promised swift veto action on budget items related to federal stimulus money, but he has yet to weigh in on this explosive regional debate about providing dual rail access to the Port of Charleston’s customers.

Commerce wants the rail line so that S.C. Public Railways has the option of operating an intermodal facility on the former Navy base property and running a rail line through the northern end of the former base — something Mayor Keith Summey opposes and promises to fight in the courts. S.C. Public Railways also says ownership is necessary because it uses the line currently to serve customers on the former base.

“Access from the north exists today,” said Jeff McWhorter, president of S.C. Public Railways. “This just provides ownership of the rail line to S.C. Public Railways of a line we’ve been operating on since the mid-’90s.”

North Charleston officials did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, sponsored the amendment. He said previously that the purpose is to preserve the state’s right to run rail out of the north, in case a compromise cannot be brokered allowing Norfolk Southern and CSX equitable access via rail lines to the south of the SPA’s new container terminal.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in the House voted 103-4 Wednesday to move a bill to the Senate that restructures the S.C. State Ports Authority board and mandates the SPA to sell property where it is not operating a terminal, among other things. As it stands, the bill is a drastic departure from the original version sponsored by Grooms, and passed earlier in the session by the Senate. The upper chamber would still be required to sign off on it before it moves to the governor.

The deadline was extended for passage of this bill beyond next week’s scheduled adjournment.

Among the key tenants in S. 351:

  • Orders the S.C. State Ports Authority to have its Daniel Island property under contract by 2011 and to close a deal by 2012.
  • Deeds the Daniel Island land to the state’s Conservation Land Bank or to Berkeley County — there are conflicting amendments — if the agency cannot sell the property by that year. The SPA owns 1,300 acres there where it had planned to build the Global Gateway terminal.
  • Mandates that the SPA sell the now-defunct Port of Port Royal land in Beaufort County by December 2010.
  • Requires the port to pay $800,000, or 10% of proceeds, whichever is greater, from the sale of the Port of Port Royal property for the construction of a public boat ramp on the northern end of Broad River in Beaufort County.
  • Says that members of the General Assembly can require the SPA staff to turn over confidential materials related to the negotiation and sale of these properties and forbids lawmakers from sharing the information with the public.
  • Sets the terms of all current board members to expire Jan. 15, 2011, though nothing prohibits the reappointment of a sitting member. A new governor will be in place by then and would have the authority to clear the entire board.
  • Requires the governor to appoint one member to the board from each of six congressional districts, plus one at-large member.
  • Establishes that the secretary of commerce and the secretary of transportation serve on the board as ex officio members.

The railroad amendment in the budget bill says:
“Any, track, spur, switch, terminal, terminal facility, road bed, right of way, bridge, station, railroad car, locomotive or other vehicle constructed for operation over railroad tracks … and all associated structures and equipment that was necessary for the operation of any railroad located on an applicable federal military installation … shall be transferred, and immediately vest, in fee simple absolute, to the Department of Commerce, in the Division of Public Railways.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Orangeburg seeks $278m for Charleston railroad plan

By MOLLY PARKER, Charleston Regional Business Journal Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Orangeburg County has filed a request seeking $278 million in federal funds to help implement a controversial rail plan that calls for construction of an intermodal facility on the former Navy base in North Charleston and running trains through the base’s northern end.

The proposal to U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn also requests money for a separate intermodal facility on the Macalloy property on the base’s southern end, several rail overpasses in North Charleston and a rail line running into Orangeburg County, where Jafza International is planning to build a massive logistics park.

“Orangeburg and Jafza understand that, unless this issue is addressed and corrected in Charleston, their project is in trouble,” said Jeff McWhorter, president of S.C. Public Railways, a division of the S.C. Department of Commerce that would purchase the Orangeburg rail line, according to the proposal.

Though only a portion of the requested funding is for projects in Orangeburg, McWhorter said, “That was the avenue by which we ended up pursuing money for Charleston, as well.”

The proposal specifies the locations for the rail yards, but McWhorter said he doubts that a federal funding commitment would be contingent upon sticking to those plans. Furthermore, he said, funds were submitted for both rail yards with the understanding “that one or the other would work.”

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey has promised a legal fight against any state entity that attempts to force rail through the northern end of the former Navy base.

Last week, Summey said he was frustrated that he was not consulted about the federal funding request.

“This is one of those things that annoys you. People don’t talk to you,” Summey said. “I think it’s a little unusual the subject wasn’t broached with us. If the two locations are off the Navy base and in the south end, we’d be more than happy to work with them. I would think they would at least want to talk with us, get our opinion, what-have-you.”

The S.C. State Ports Authority is building a new container terminal on the former Navy base property, and the Noisette Co. has designed a live-work community there — and Summey is adamant that rail not run through that city-backed business and residential development.

The aim of the proposal, McWhorter said, is to secure enough federal funds to build rail yards that would service both of the region’s Class 1 railroads — CSX and Norfolk Southern — and provide them equal access to the Port of Charleston’s customers.

Gregg Robinson, executive director of the Orangeburg County Development Commission, called the rail plan, and the request for federal funds to implement it, “a regional concept to a statewide problem.” The proposal was presented to Clyburn, the House majority whip, who helped spearhead the Jafza project, and to other members of the S.C. congressional delegation, Robinson said.

“The statewide problem is we do not have adequate rail currently and we need to improve it,” Robinson said.

Orangeburg officials also want to ensure that both CSX and Norfolk Southern can service the Jafza project, which includes plans for millions of square feet of warehousing and manufacturing space in that county.

A portion of the requested federal funds is for the potential purchase by S.C. Public Railways of CSX’s line running between Creston and Harleyville adjacent to the Jafza property.

If S.C. Public Railways owns the line, the companies at Jafza could access CSX and Norfolk Southern services through his agency, McWhorter said. As it stands, CSX is “not agreeable to that,” McWhorter said, but the federal money was requested in case the railroad company changes its mind and decides to negotiate.

Robinson said his opinion is not “relevant at this time” about where the rail yards should be situated in the Charleston region.

“What I’m trying to accomplish is of mutual benefit to a number of different parties, and we’re working via S.C. Public Railways to get this accomplished,” Robinson said. “This is a team effort to try to improve our overall approach to be able to handle business.”

Robinson said now is not the time to point fingers about why this plan was not put into place earlier.

“Let’s move forward,” he said. “We know it’s a problem; we have to collectively come together and figure out how to best solve the problem. We are going to continue to lose market share if we don’t fix it.”

On the Web:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Gazeley's G.Park Blue Planet at Chatterley Valley awarded first BREEAM

Global provider of sustainable logistics space, Gazeley, today announces that its new completed £50 million scheme, G.Park Blue Planet at Chatterley Valley, is the first development in the world to be awarded the new BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) “Outstanding” rating (design stage). This is the highest sustainable accolade available in property development.

On average G.Park Blue Planet scored 85.49%, which classifies it as outstanding under the new tougher 2008 ratings for environmental performance introduced in June 2008. The development scored particularly well under the BREEAM rating in the management, health & wellbeing and water (all 100%); energy (87.5%); and waste (85.71%).

Jonathan Fenton-Jones, Director of Sustainability and Global Procurement at Gazeley said, “Receiving the first BREEAM ‘outstanding’ rating is the highest recognition for Gazeley’s focus on sustainable logistics. With G.Park Blue Planet at Chatterley Valley, we believe we have created an industry blue print for cutting-edge developments. Not only does it deliver significant environmental savings, it also creates total energy and water cost in use savings of up to £300,000 per annum.”

Gazeley partnered with Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council and regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands (AWM) to create the world’s greenest logistics developments as part of the first phase of the wider Chatterley Valley park, North Staffordshire.

Located on a former colliery site, G.Park Blue Planet at Chatterley Valley is a 35,500 sq m development that was recently completed. It houses the UK’s first truly carbon positive logistics development, with its own biomass micro power station. What sets this development apart is that 100% of the energy and heat is supplied by renewable sources. This has helped it exceed the UK Governments Climate Change Bill targets for both 2020 and 2050 in 2009.

Paul Gibbon, Director of Sustainability at BRE Global, the developers of BREEAM, said, “Obtaining the first ever BREEAM outstanding is a remarkable achievement. This development scored very highly in all sections of BREEAM and achieved exemplary credits on the key areas of daylighting, reduced CO2 emissions, construction waste management and use of low carbon technologies. What is more the development shows that achieving a high BREEAM standard can also mean lower running costs.”

The sustainability credentials that have led to this prestigious award include:
  • Thermally efficient buildings with air tightness and thermal insulation
  • Kinetic plates which capture energy every time a vehicle enters or leaves the site
  • Efficient systems for further building energy reduction, utilising cutting-edge lighting, maximum use of natural light, under floor heating and an energy panel wall
  • The latest solar cell technology implanted into special rooflights which eliminate night time light pollution
  • The majority of materials used in the building being either A or A+ rated in BRE Globals’ Green Guide to Specification
  • The development targets zero waste send to landfill
Steven Holland, Head of Asset Management at regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands, said, “We’re delighted to see the hard work at G Park Blue Planet being rewarded. It is truly one of the most exciting developments we have in the West Midlands region. This is a tangible example of moving talk about climate change into demonstrable action, and showcases the West Midlands as a region which is embracing the opportunities of the new low carbon era.”

The overall Chatterley Valley park is a joint venture between Advantage West Midlands and the North Staffordshire Regeneration Zone, Newcastle Borough Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire County Council. The park totals 70 hectares of land that will be transformed over the next decade, creating a total of around 4,000 jobs.