Winnsboro admin aims to clean up the downtown

A storefront on S. Congress Street in Winnsboro. | Barbara Ball

WINNSBORO – You might have seen them popping up around town: code enforcement signs on derelict buildings, some of which are dramatic eyesores and some of which have simply fallen into a slow state of decline.

The message to owners, says Town Administrator Jason Taylor: It’s time to clean up your property.

“It’s not unique to Winnsboro,” Taylor says of the problem, which is common in small towns, especially those that experience periods of economic stagnation.

“Properties fall into disrepair at times, and sometimes people need to be reminded that when you live in a community with close neighbors, you need to maintain your property to be considerate to your neighbors.”

Burned out house on S. Congress St. | Photos: Martha Ladd

The arrival of new town staff and new elected officials has brought a fresh set of eyes, Taylor says – and their vision is a cleaner and more welcoming downtown.

It’s something Taylor already has some experience with: When he was town administrator in Ridgeland, he was involved in a similar program of code enforcement combined with public investment in sidewalks, streetlights, landscaping, and parks which was successful in revitalizing the downtown.

“We had a downtown that was in terrible condition – by far worse than Winnsboro,” Taylor says. “The public investment really spurred a lot of private investment, and those buildings were all occupied by the time I left.”

On the flip side he says, the long-term risk of inaction is real: “Decay will take your whole town if you let it continue. If you don’t cut it out, that cancer will kill the town.”

One of the most hazardous cases, he says, has already been resolved: the owner of a burned-out house that’s been sitting for a couple of years decided to deed the property to the town, which has capability to remove the destroyed structure and turn the site into a usable lot.

Meanwhile, he says, the town is also looking at its own properties and improvements that could be made to those.

For property owners receiving the notices, he says, the main thing is that they need a plan to make repairs; in some cases, the fix that’s needed is minor.

Those properties that truly pose a hazard are the biggest priorities, he says, and if those owners refuse to work with the town on a solution, the code violations could be enforced through legal action.

“All this is headed toward a better quality of life for our citizens,” Taylor says.

“If we have a more attractive town, a more inviting town, a more pleasant place for everybody to live, if properties are maintained, everybody’s property value goes up instead of down,” he says. “It’s a better, cleaner community, more attractive…. People will potentially want to live, visit, and work here, and our property values will continue to go up.”


  1. Joanne McFadden says

    Is this only the city limits? Coming in from Columbia or Kershaw County, the village is the first thing people see. What about cleaning up some of the properties not used, cleaning up burned out houses,and litter. The trash around this county is ridiculous. It is time to start making people clean the trash up in their yards and the FCSD and the city police to start charging everyone that litters. It is a disgrace to our county that people do not care if they tear up or trash the landlords properties or their own property. Why are some tagged about their grass and weeds not being cut and the same code enforcers ride by houses that have not cut their grass in a year or more? I live on the village, born and raised and I have never seen such disrespect for others or our hometown in all my years. I am always hearing, ‘we are going to make downtown beautiful’ but downtown is four blocks of a great big Fairfield County!

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