CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The House committee that writes South Carolina's budget is setting aside $23 million to the state spending plan to buy a convent that includes waterfront land on Charleston Harbor.
The House Ways and Means Committee approved putting the money into the spending plan as they sent the $10.7 billion budget to the House floor for debate starting Tuesday.
The 23 acres (9.3 hectares) is owned by the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy. It includes 750 feet (229 meters) of land on Charleston Harbor.
Sen. Chip Campsen, who alerted lawmakers that the land, which includes a chapel and dorms, was on the market, Campsen said the state needs to act fast because there is a lot of competition from private buyers.
“If we don’t acquire this, it will end up being developed pretty intensively. And God’s not making any more coastal real estate," Campsen, a Republican from the Isle of Palms, told The Post and Courier of Charleston.
The House plan would have the Department of Natural Resources buy the land and renting the buildings. The agency already owns adjacent research site property where the pre-Revolutionary Fort Johnson once stood.
The site could be used for weddings, educational field trips, conferences and for walking and bicycling on trails, lawmakers said.
The nuns at the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy, which was founded in the 1820s, are getting older and decided it was time to sell, House Ways and Means Chairman Murrell Smith said.
“I think it’s very important we preserve land for the average South Carolinian to be able to enjoy those resources,” the Sumter Republican said. “Unfortunately, now as beach property and rental property go up it’s tough for people to go and vacation at the beach like we once did."
The nuns moved to the property after World War II, and Smith said lawmakers were told they would prefer to preserve the land than see it developed.