Mt.Zion Institute possibly finds new life

WINNSBORO – After years of squabbling between the Town of Winnsboro and the Friends of Mt. Zion Institute (FOMZI) over what to do with the expensive, crumbling, loved and hated relic referred to as Mt. Zion, a solution and a new life may be in the offing for the Institute.

Following County Council’s meeting Monday evening, Chairman Billy Smith unveiled a rendition of a renovated Mt. Zion, and suggested that the County is working toward a useful plan for the several buildings.

“What we’re looking to do,” Smith said before Council went into executive session with representatives of the Town of Winnsboro and 1st & Main Development, a private development firm, “is incorporate a new County Administration building into Mt. Zion.”

He said the County and Town would be discussing a potential Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that he said is a statement of intentions, not a contract.

“The County will try to secure the property from the Town of Winnsboro, and the developer will have 180 days to pursue working on a purchase and development agreement to submit to the County,” Smith said.

“Any project we pursue, I understand, would fit in with the Town’s current zoning in the neighborhood, so there would be no less protection than there is now” Smith said.

“If we go forward with the project, 1st & Main can take advantage of historical tax credits since it is a private company, and would procure the property and do the work at their cost. Then the County would purchase the property through a lease-purchase agreement over a period of years,” Smith said.

But Smith stressed that before the County moves forward with any plans, Council wants to hear from the public and have discussion with those who live in the Mt. Zion neighborhood.

“We will meet again Aug. 14, and I would hope to hear from folks then,” Smith said. “We want to do what’s best for the residents and for the Town and the County.”