2 years after devastating Georgetown fire, historic district making progress

2 years after devastating Georgetown fire, historic district making progress

GEORGETOWN, SC (WMBF) - Today marks the two-year anniversary of the massive fire in Georgetown that destroyed homes and businesses along Front Street.

In total, 10 businesses in seven buildings have been displaced by the fire that ripped through Georgetown's historic district in the early morning of Wednesday, September 25th, 2013. Luckily no one was injured.

It's taken two years, but there's some forward momentum now with taking care of the hole left from the fire's devastation.

The city put up a temporary fence about one week ago because people were complaining about the appearance of the vacant lot.

Mayor Jack Scoville said there were seven owners of the eight properties when the fire occurred, and now, some of the properties have been handed off, so there are three total owners.

Steve Timmons is offering his six-property-wide space to the city to lease as a park for the next three years, saying it would not be financially feasible to rebuild with market conditions right now, but he hopes to be able to do so after that.

Timmons would get the ground ready for sodding, which the city would then take care of and maintain.

A founding board member of the South Carolina Maritime Museum, Johnny Weaver, presented the park proposal to city council in August. He said he would really like to see a park in place for the Wooden Boat Show in a few weeks.

"It would be nice just to have green space where you can look out from Front Street through there to look through the water," Weaver said.

The mayor is not sure if an agreement will be worked out by that point.

City council discussed it at a workshop Thursday night and has since responded with some requests for changes to the plan because if the city leases the land, it becomes tax exempt, Mayor Scoville said.

"Significant benefit to the property owner and the other council members felt like if you're getting basically $12,000 a year payment maybe you should do a little bit more to offset that impact to the taxpayers," he said.

Jeanette Ard, owner of Colonial Florist, said she has her permits now and  plans to start work on a deck in the next month then the actual building in the next year.

"I think for the community to start moving forward, we have to move that end of the city forward because it's very important to the economic development of the city," Ard said.

She said this process has been slow because it took a while for the property owners to try to secure the grant money offered by the state. However, Ard said it had to be a unanimous decision to accept it and one of the property owners did not want to agree with some of the terms.

Mayor Scoville said those terms involved the city securing more infrastructure on the properties and also a guarantee of jobs.

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