To get what you want, you have to be willing to accept “no” as an answer and then continue to pursue your want despite the rejection.
The Friends of Mt. Zion Institute (FOMZI) showed that resiliency and it has paid off. The citizens group has requested a chance to save the Mt. Zion building from the wrecking ball since November of 2012, via a letter stipulating their desires and plans for the development of the property.
After a work session on Nov. 13, Winnsboro’s Town Council decided to move forward with drafting an offer to allow FOMZI control of the Mt. Zion property.
In the past year, Mt. Zion has switched hands back to the Town of Winnsboro from Red Clay Development. Town council agreed to transfer the deed to Red Clay in November of 2009 upon the presentation of an acceptable contract. However, after three years of nearly no action and disappointment, the town was forced to terminate the contract with Red Clay and transfer the deed back to the town.
That opened up an opportunity for FOMZI to take the lead in the development of Mt. Zion. FOMZI’s board members and supporters have filled town hall during the last several town council meetings, and have articulated their desire to take the reins of the project.
They have shared their plans to secure the roof, windows and begin the rehab of building that has been all but forgotten. Long term, the citizens group hopes to have Dru Blair’s college of art move into the building. The hope is that an injection of youth and students will spur economic development.
Although the timeline for this story goes all the way back to 1994 when the Mt. Zion Society sent a letter to the Town of Winnsboro stipulating their conditional desire to convey the deed of the Mt. Zion property, I have only been following the story for the past year.
Admittedly there has been plenty to catch myself up on, but one thing I have noticed is that there is plenty of moral support for the rehab of the historic building and the number one question is whether or not there is enough money to complete the job.
FOMZI members have stated there is $60,000 in the bank ready to begin improvements. There is also nearly $17,000 in pledges and $26,000 worth of materials, which were offered up by Chuck Herrin.
In addition to officially accepting the Mt. Zion property in 2002, the town also accepted $112,000 from the Mt. Zion Society.
According to the town staff, the town has spent — conservatively speaking — well over $100,000 in labor cost, legals fees and invoices attributable to the property.
Town council has taken plenty of flak from the public, which has accused council of being intent on tearing the building down.
However, if council wanted the building torn down they would have done so back in 2008 when there was a contract with Carolina Wrecking to demolish the building. Two weeks before the scheduled demolition, the town backed out and began negotiations with Red Clay, which we all know did not work out as planned.
And now council has again shown the willingness to save the building by drafting up an offer to give FOMZI their own chance.
So as council has exhausted nearly every option and gone through developers, the fate of the building will soon rest in FOMZI’s hands.
Kudos to FOMZI for pursuing their want even in the face of rejection and kudos to town council for allowing the citizens group to take a crack at Mt. Zion.
Now FOMZI has their chance to save what is quite possibly the most-loved historic building in an historic town.
Lucas Vance is a staff writer for The Herald Independent and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.