WTC Investments  decides not to purchase old Aiken County Hospital property-1

The old Aiken County hospital property is on Richland Avenue West.

WTC Investments LLC has ended its agreement with Aiken County to purchase the old Aiken County Hospital property at 828 Richland Ave. W. in Aiken.

"Aiken County and WTC worked for several months to close the deal, but factors outside of the county’s control influenced the decision by WTC to withdraw from the contract," according to a news release issued by Aiken County Council on Thursday afternoon.

"First and foremost was the timeframe involved in getting the South Carolina Educational Television tower removed from the rear of the site," the release continued. "WTC expressed concern that the structure would not be removed within a timeframe acceptable to it. Current projections by SCETV for the tower removal, assuming Federal Communications Commission and Federal Aviation Administration approval of the site of the replacement tower in the next 90 days, is November or December of 2020."

The county and the City of Aiken want the replacement tower to be constructed on land near the Aiken Department of Public Safety headquarters on Beaufort Street.

In March 2019, County Council, by an 8-1 vote, approved the third and final reading of an ordinance that authorized the sale of the old Aiken County Hospital and its 9.33 acres of property to WTC for $1.1 million.

Tom Wyatt manages WTC Investments. His father, Weldon Wyatt, is a local entrepreneur and developer.

A brick structure, the old Aiken County Hospital was built prior to World War II. It also served as the headquarters for Aiken County's government prior to the opening of the $35.7-million Aiken County Government Center in 2014 on University Parkway.

“We are disappointed that this sale will not be completed as planned, but this gives the county more time to work with SCETV to ensure the tower is removed,” said Aiken County Council Chairman Gary Bunker in a prepared statement. "The removal of the 400-foot SCETV tower is important to the sale and redevelopment of the property and surrounding parcels.

"WTC's action allows the county to complete this step without taking on the substantial financial risks requested by WTC,” Bunker added.

County Council “has had discussions with other interested developers about the property and will consider all available options as soon as possible,” according to the release.

"The Aiken County Council is ready to see this property redeveloped and will work as quickly as possible towards that end,” Bunker said.

The Aiken Standard reached out to Tom Wyatt and Weldon Wyatt for comment Thursday, but they did not respond prior to this story’s publication deadline.

WTC’s plan for the old Aiken County Hospital land involved razing all of the existing buildings on the site and constructing a hotel, conference center, apartment complex and amenity area.

The investment could have had a $240 million economic impact in Aiken, according to a city-generated study.

But WTC’s plan also generated controversy among historic preservationists, who wanted to save the old Aiken County Hospital, and others.

Last August, Aiken City Council discussed the possibility of a public-private partnership with WTC. The City of Aiken would have invested roughly $12.5 million through several different financial strategies, including a multi-county business park arrangement that would have included a fee in lieu of property taxes agreement.

Aiken City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh told the Aiken Standard late last year that the city would not be moving forward with the proposal.

In December, County Council approved the first reading of an ordinance that would establish a multi-county business park to provide funding for the removal of the existing tower from the old Aiken County Hospital property and the construction of a new tower on the land near Public Safety’s headquarters.

County Administrator Clay Killian said Thursday that Ray Massey, an attorney for WTC, notified County Attorney Jim Holly by email on Jan. 12 that WTC “would not be moving forward with the contract.”

Massey indicated, however, that WTC was still interested in acquiring the old County Council building, Killian said. That structure is on a smaller piece of property near the old Aiken County Hospital.

Earlier this month, County Council approved the third and final reading of an amended ordinance that authorized the sale of the old County Council building to WTC for $200,000.

Following Holly’s receipt of Massey’s email, Killian said, a letter dated Jan. 13 was “hand delivered” to Bunker that stated WTC “no longer was interested in purchasing” the old Aiken County Hospital. That letter came from another attorney, Mary Guynn.

Killian said he and Holly received copies of the letter.

Massey and Guynn are both associated with the Smith, Massey, Brodie, Guynn & Mayes law firm, which is based in Aiken.

​Dede Biles is the Aiken County government, business and horse industry reporter for the Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @DBethBiles.