We started searching again. This time we found a place closer to home that looked very promising. It was about 30 minutes from Keith's place of work, meaning we could move here, and he could easily continue working. The place was also reasonably priced on 75 acres!
It was a former conference center used initially for corporate retreats--in particular by a large textile company called, Miliken. It had also been used most recently for retreats and as a wedding venue. The current owners were using as a vacation home were they could retreat to the woods and mountain bike.
The 75 acres were mostly wooded with a nice creek running the whole way through with a couple of ponds. The main structure was a 7000 sq. ft. modern-type cedar building with 10 bedrooms. At the end of the property was the ruins of an old mill. I loved this part. All that remained was a wall that damned the creek and created a small waterfall that flowed into a swimming hole. I'm just sorry I don't have a picture of it.
The property also consisted of a duplex, another small dwelling, (all three of these spaces currently being rented) and a barn. Besides woods, the property had several acres of pasture. Campobello is in the heart of horse country. So after many visits. (We had to shed a tear and say good bye to our North Carolina realtor since she wasn't certified in South Carolina.) We hired Susan, a friend from Greenville, to be a realtor. We also planned out the many options to make this place work. And we called in our friends and family for their help, too. We showed them all the place.
Ultimately, besides the main conference center that just needed a good power washing, we were going to get some more lodging options by turning the barn into a boutique-like motel, and starting a tiny home village. We consulted with McMillan Pazdan Smith Architect of Greenville, SC for help in designing and wading our way through some of the code issues.
We made an offer with a 30 day contingency plan, meaning that we could get out of the offer for any reason. To further inspect the buildings, we needed to be in a contract with the sellers and pay some earnest money.
The lengthy inspection came back better than we expected. There were some weird quirks with how it was built. We also knew we would be replacing all of the decking and railing on the main house. We also figured out a way to make it handicap accessible.
Next, we planned a meeting with the zoning board in Spartanburg county--where Campobello was located. A representative from the Architect company came with us as we sat across the table from the zoning board explaining our vision.
Long story short--they could not figure out a way to zone us. (They had never even heard of a retreat center.) They kept trying to put us in the category of a campground, or a hotel, or a housing development --and all of these options had different "zoning hoops" to jump through. All of them very costly. For example, we would need the driveway throughout the place to be 20 ft. wide! Maybe a sprinkler system put in the main place. These items, on top of what we were already going to fix seemed unfeasible.
We were so discouraged. Maybe this place wasn't the place.