Mt. Zion rehab hits potential snag

WINNSBORO – On Nov. 21, Winnsboro Town Council voted to accept a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Fairfield County and 1st & Main Development of Durham, N.C., regarding the revitalization of the Mt. Zion property.

The MOU was proposed by Councilman Billy Smith last summer, but before it could be voted on, Council was distracted for several months by the VC Summer abandonment.  The MOU, which did not require Council approval, was later signed by County Administrator Jason Taylor on Nov. 11.

According to the MOU, the Town of Winnsboro would deed the 3.27-acre Mt. Zion property and buildings to 1st & Main Development for the purpose of rehabilitation. The plan, according to the MOU, is for 1st & Main to be given 180 days to come up with a plan to develop the property. There is also a provision for additional days, should the project be on track but needed a reasonable extension of time. After the property is developed, the County would begin leasing it back from 1st & Main for use as a government complex. Through the lease agreement, the County would eventually own the rehabilitated property.

The MOU states that “[Town] Council believes it is in the best interest of the citizens of Winnsboro that surplus public property with historic significance to the Community, be revitalized and put to private uses that blend with the residential neighborhoods while creating jobs and bringing quality commercial enterprise to the Town.”

While Winnsboro Town Council has voted to accept the MOU between the County and 1st & Main Development, there is a significant bump in the road before the property deed would be binding. The deed, as it has been written by the Town of Winnsboro, stipulates that if, for some reason, 1st & Main Development does not move forward with the rehabilitation of the Mt. Zion property, ownership of the property would be assumed by the County.

“That deed would have to be approved by a vote of County Council before it could be signed by the County Administrator,” Council Chairman Billy Smith said. “I don’t know what the outcome of that vote will be, but I’m not in favor of the property becoming the County’s should the project not materialize.”

Smith was said he was not sure when the matter would come to Council for a vote.