Thursday, May 25, 2017

'Visitor Impact Fee' tabled indefinitely by City Council

Posted By on Thu, May 25, 2017 at 5:56 PM

The highly controversial proposal to levy a 25-cent surcharge on almost every downtown transaction $10 and over was on the agenda for a discussion and second reading vote at today's City Council meeting.

But Savannah City Council, obviously responding to the measure's toxic unpopularity among citizens and small business owners, tabled the measure indefinitely.

The fee was envisioned as a way to fund increases in the 'Savannah Serves' program of downtown ambassadors and increased police patrol in the tourist district.

Next week's public info session on the proposal was canceled in response.

The move likely means the proposal is dead at least for the foreseeable future. Indeed, Alderman Tony Thomas could be overheard on a hot mic joking that "this means it ain't coming back."

In other City business, Council unanimously approved a $50 million-plus infrastructure investment in the Savannah River Landing project, mostly for new parking garages.

Alderman Julian Miller said the new garages will "tie into the new parking study," in other words, the added space might alleviate citizen concerns about the dramatic extension of downtown parking rates and hours approved at the last Council meeting.

Other plans for the site include extending the SPLOST-funded Riverwalk from River Street, in front of the Marriott, and joining up with a new section at Savannah River Landing.

A City-funded and maintained park will line the waterfront of the new development.

Alderman Thomas reminded citizens that taxpayers already pay over a million dollars per year just to service existing debt on the site, and that an opportunity for such a transformative investment "comes once in a lifetime."

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