Saturday, March 31, 2018

Man dies of gunshot wounds received on Truman Parkway

Posted By on Sat, Mar 31, 2018 at 7:57 PM

Savannah Police’s Violent Crimes detectives are investigating a fatal shooting that occurred late March 30 at Harry S. Truman Parkway near Wheaton Street.

"Officers responded to the area about 10 p.m. and discovered Ronald Johnson, 30, in a wrecked vehicle with gunshot wounds. He succumbed to those injuries at the scene," police say.

"Sundiadaa Miller, also 30, suffered injuries that were the result of the vehicle crash. He was transported to a hospital for treatment."

The incident remains under investigation. "The shooting does not appear to be random," police say.

Anyone with information should contact the Savannah Police tip line by calling (912) 525-3124. Information can also be forwarded to CrimeStoppers at (912) 234-2020. Tipsters remain anonymous and may qualify for a cash reward.




Woman arrested for YouTube video that "depicted a school threat"

Posted By on Sat, Mar 31, 2018 at 7:53 PM

Savannah Police arrested a 55-year-old Savannah woman March 30 "after she allegedly posted a video on YouTube that depicted a shooting threat at Godley Station Elementary School," police report.

Police say the video, titled “Shooting Godley Station School with Machine Gun Adventures Street View,” showed a street view video of the school grounds while machine gun fire played in the background.

"Teresa Richardson, who admitted to creating the video as an expression of her right to free speech, can be seen in the video giving the middle finger," police report. "The video also displayed obscene language aimed at teachers and students at the school."

After an investigation, officers arrested Richardson on a charge of Dissemination of Acts Related to Terroristic Threats, which makes it illegal for anyone to use a computer network to disseminate any terroristic threat.

Detectives from Savannah Police and Officers from Board of Education Police worked jointly on this investigation.

“We take these threats seriously, and as soon as we learned about them, we immediately assigned investigators to investigate these threats,” Chief Mark Revenew said. “Anyone who makes threats to our schools and the potential safety of them will be investigated thoroughly and dealt with appropriately.”


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Controversial Starland Village project gets City approval

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2018 at 5:41 PM

In what has become a familiar scene, numerous local residents speaking out against a controversial development project weren't enough to convince Savannah City Council to vote against it.

The large, $40 million multi-use "live/work/play" development Starland Village was approved for zoning by a vote of 6-3 today in Council. Alderpersons Van Johnson, Estella Shabazz, and Brian Foster were the no votes.

Johnson said of the project: "It represents coolness at its best... but in my mind it's also a fundamental mismatch to what's there.... It's classic gentrification."

Referring to the developer's efforts to network with Mid-City residents, Mayor DeLoach said "the Foram Group has gone farther" than nearly any other developer in responding to neighborhood concerns.

"It will change that neighborhood but it will change that neighborhood for the better," said the mayor.

Alderman Bill Durrence, in support of Starland Village, said, "If Foram walked away tomorrow.... somebody else will come in... at one point the Landmark District, if you go back far enough, was nothing but cottages. Scale changes, context changes.. I think this is a good project... this project has my absolute support."

However, a steady stream of residents and local small landlords spoke against the project.

Raine Blunk said the change of zoning to allow Starland Village will "homogenize years of distinct culture" enjoyed by local residents, adding that the "beautiful thing about Savannah is we have time to avoid" what has happened to so many other cities,"and this development would put a stop to that forever."

Virginia Mobley, former head of the Thomas Square Neighborhood Association, told City Council that "first you allowed big developers to push residents and local businesses out of the Landmark Historic District, then out of the Victorian district, and now you want to do the same to Thomas Square."

Indeed, at one point Alderman Julian Miller, supporting the project, said point blank that "this is not a neighborhood, this is a business district."

The Foram Group's attorney Robert McCorkle pointed out to Council that though the building contains a five-story structure, that portion will be set back from the street and the neighborhood is likely to only perceive it as a three-story structure.

An advanced semi-automated parking system will be incorporated into the development at Bull and 38th Streets.

In other City Council business:

* A zoning ordinance amendment passed to establish a Conservation Overlay District in the Ardsley Park/Chatham Crescent/Ardmore Neighborhood. The change would make it more difficult to demolish existing contributing structures.

* Council approved a Fire Fee Discount Program to allow property owners to apply for and receive discounts on their new City of Savannah fire fee.

"Discounts are available for items and activities which support fire safety and reduce the risk of fire, such as installing smoke detectors or creating and practicing evacuation plans," says a City spokesperson,

The City currently anticipates billing the 2018 fire fee on the second installment property tax bill in September, 2018. Property owners can apply for the fire fee discount program between April 15, 2018 and June 1, 2018. Details about the program and the application can be found online at www.savannahga.gov/firefee.

The fire fee for all single family residences, before any discounts are applied, is $256 for 2018. The City will be sending out letters in April to property owners who will be billed a fire fee greater than the base $256 letting them know their estimated fire fee amount.

* The Broughton Street Corridor was officially taken off the City's Urban Renewal Plan, established in 1986 to revitalize the area.

"It has been fully renewed," said Alderman Foster.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Savannah National Historic Landmark District was deemed 'Satisfactory' in 2006, contrary to City position

Posted By on Thu, Mar 22, 2018 at 2:43 PM

The City of Savannah's defense has been undercut in the wake of yesterday's news that the National Historic Landmark District was downgraded to "Threatened" status by the National Park Service due to increased development and disturbance of the original town plan.

In response to that new National Park Service assessment, completed recently and unveiled by local preservation agencies yesterday, the City issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying:

"As cited in this report, the status of Savannah’s Landmark District has not changed. It was designated as 'Priority 1 Threatened' when it was last assessed in 2002, and it is recommended in this report to remain at “Priority 1 Threatened,'" a City spokesperson told the media on Wednesday, just hours after the news broke.

"For the past 15 years the City has been working with local stakeholders to address most of the concerns noted in the report, with the goal of striking a balance between preservation, development, tourism and quality of life," the City said.

However, in an email obtained by Connect Savannah, the National Park Service confirms that Savannah's Landmark District designation was taken off the watch list in 2006.

In 2006 the district was moved to 'Satisfactory' when a proposed bus terminal was moved outside the boundary. Since 2006 the condition has not changed," writes Cynthia Walton, National Historic Landmarks Program Manager with the National Park Service's Southeast Region.

This development reinforces concerns that developments downtown since then, especially hotels, have indeed directly put Savannah's cherished Landmark District in danger, contrary to the City's position that such development had not affected the designation.

There are three basic designations of a National Historic Landmark District:

• Satisfactory (Priority 3) indicates that there is no known current or potential threat to the landmark.

• Watch (Priority 2) indicates NHLs that face impending actions or circumstances that likely will cause a loss of integrity.

• Threatened (Priority 1) indicates NHLs that have suffered, or are in imminent danger of, a severe loss of integrity.

• Emergency indicates that recent catastrophic damage has occurred that requires immediate intervention.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Savannah's National Historic Landmark District status placed on 'Threatened' list

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2018 at 12:34 PM

The National Park Service has recommended that Savannah's National Historic Landmark District be placed on the “Threatened (Priority 1 List),” meaning the city’s Landmark District — first declared in 1966 — has suffered, or is in imminent danger of, a severe loss of integrity.

The Integrity and Condition Assessment of the Savannah National Historic Landmark District was conducted at the request of Historic Savannah Foundation.

The two main reasons for the alarming reclassification: The loss of James Oglethorpe's original town plan dating back to the colony's founding in 1733; and large-scale development (primarily but not limited to hotels).

“The scope of work involved using the National Park Service's seven aspects of integrity – location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association – as a rubric to examine the district's current health," says Rebecca Fenwick, Director of Preservation for Lominack Kolman Smith Architects and a partner in the assessment.

"Rooted in on-the-ground fieldwork and an analysis of changes to the district since the district's listing in 1966, two major threats were identified – the loss of Oglethorpe's Savannah Town Plan and large-scale development," says Fenwick.

The increasing speed and scale of text amendments to building guidelines in the district, along with an increase in variance requests to the Zoning Board of Appeals, have significantly hampered efforts to more responsibly regulate new and infill development in the Landmark District — especially in the wake of recent economic recovery and continued expansion of tourism.

Ellen Harris, Director of Preservation for the Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission, says, "In many ways, Savannah is a victim of its own success."

Since the District was recognized in 1966 and a corresponding preservation ordinance was formally adopted by the City in 1973, "I really don't think that anyone could have foreseen getting 14 million visitors a year," Harris says.

"Last year the board and staff reviewed 372 Certificates of Appropriateness — that's more than double what it was ten years ago," Harris says.

“The loss of National Historic Landmark status would be analogous to a major league sport team being demoted to the minor league," says Dr. Robin Williams, Savannah College of Art and Design Architectural History Chair. "To see Savannah’s historical significance thus diminished would be very unfortunate.”

Historic Savannah Foundation Director Daniel Carey says, "This assessment is — in part — the result of going too long without a check-up... It’s not too late, but we need to start dieting and exercising. That diet, it appears, is what the National Park Service is prescribing: go lighter on big infill and take care of Oglethorpe’s Plan."

Since Savannah earned its National Historic Landmark Designation status in 1966, about  28 buildings within the district have been demolished, and the Savannah Civic Center, Chatham County Courthouse and Jail, and the Cultural Arts Center have interrupted the Savannah Town Plan.

Over the last 50 years, 15 hotels have been built within or bordering Savannah's Landmark District. Today, there are 15 additional hotels that are either under construction or proposed to be built.

Monday, March 19, 2018

City says its share of cost of Pence visit is under $5000

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2018 at 4:23 PM

"City of Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach hosted Vice President Mike Pence at City Hall for Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The City spent approximately $4,512.85 to prepare for the Vice President’s visit," a City spokesperson says this afternoon.

The bunting on City Hall
  • The bunting on City Hall





The breakdown is:

· $1,000 for a structural assessment of the second floor balcony at City Hall

· $2,900 purchase and installation of new red carpeting for the Mayor’s conference room and balcony.

· $362.85 for green and white exterior bunting

· Approximately $150 for miscellaneous carpentry supplies

· Approximately $100 for two flower pots and flowers to hold the front doors open at City Hall.

"The City plans to keep the red carpeting on the balcony and in the Mayor’s conference room and reuse the green bunting to decorate City Hall during future St. Patrick’s Day celebrations," says the spokesperson.

"The City did not pay for any additional police officers or security enhancements during the VP’s visit. Secret Service staffing and other resources utilized by the Secret Service were paid for by the federal government," the City says.

Rogue Water deck collapse not due to overcrowding, first responders say

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2018 at 1:21 PM

"Information provided by first responders indicates overcrowding does not appear to have been a factor" in Saturday's deck collapse at Rogue Water Tap House which hospitalized 14 people during the St. Patrick's Day celebration, the City of Savannah said today.

"City of Savannah’s Department of Development Services issued a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) for 38 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in 2002 when the deck was initially constructed," a City spokesperson says. "Upon issuance of the CO, the City does not have any ongoing responsibility to inspect the building. The responsibility to inspect and maintain the building falls on the property owner."

The latest Savannah Fire fire marshal inspection occurred on February 28 of this year. However, Savannah Fire does not inspect buildings for structural soundness, just to set building capacity for fire safety purposes. The set maximum occupancy load for the building is 165.

"On Saturday, Savannah Fire required the property owner to close off access to the deck and exterior courtyard immediately following the incident. The deck area is isolated from the rest of the establishment," the City says.




Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Large 'Enhanced Security Zone' set for Pence visit; includes multiple checkpoints for entry

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 1:49 PM

enhanced_security_zone_map.jpg
Today the City of Savannah announced extensive security measures for the St. Patrick's Day visit by Vice President Mike Pence.

The security protocol will be in effect from 12:01 a.m. Saturday until about 1 p.m. Saturday.

Here are the key points:

An "Enhanced Security Zone" administered by the Secret Service will be bounded by Bay Street to the north, Oglethorpe Avenue to the south, Whitaker Street to the west, and Drayton Street to the east.

Beginning 12:01 a.m. Saturday (i.e. late Friday night), no vehicles may be parked within this zone, including those of residents.

From 4 a.m.-7 a.m. Saturday, no one will be allowed to enter the zone at all while the Secret Service conducts a full security sweep.

Current residents who are already in the zone may stay, and they may go outside to walk dogs etc but MUST have proof of residence.

No employees allowed in that secure zone until sweep is done about 7 a.m. Saturday morning.

ALL people then entering the Enhance Security Zone will have to pass through security checkpoints at

·Bay Lane

 Saint Julian Street

· Congress Street

· Broughton Street

Magnetometer checkpoints will also be located at the following roads intersecting Drayton Street:

· Bay Lane

· Broughton Street

· President Street

Police say restrictions on what you can bring in are similar to TSA protocol. No coolers, no food or drink other than sealed water bottles.

Wheelchairs are allowed, as are blankets, infant needs, cameras, phones, service dogs, strollers, and a small wallet.

No backpacks, no food or drink from outside, no umbrellas.

No drones, no tools, nothing glass.

No weapons of any type.

Pedestrians have until 10 a.m. to enter that Enhanced Security Zone, and you MUST go through security checkpoints to enter.

After 10 a.m. you cannot enter the Zone.

Due to the number of restrictions in the enhanced security zone, the City is providing bleacher seating.

All parade goers will be able to purchase items from stores that are open inside the enhanced security zone.

You CAN have alcohol within the Zone, you just can't bring it in. Must be purchased within the Zone.

Normal to-go cup usage is allowed within the Zone.

In addition, the City will allow four food trucks into the enhanced security zone; two will be located in Johnson Square, two will be located in Wright Square.

No pedestrians can cross Bull Street (the parade route) from either side while within that Zone.

There will be no tents, no tables, no chairs, and no coolers allowed on Johnson and Wright Squares.

There will be no signs or anything else on sticks or posts allowed in the Enhanced Security Zone.

Flags and blankets will be allowed, just not on sticks/posts.

No signs of any type are allowed in the Enhanced Security Zone.

Again, the checkpoints only apply if you want to be in the Enhanced Security Zone. Police say no special or unusual protocol will be used outside of that zone.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Vice President Mike Pence to visit Savannah for St. Patrick's Day

Posted By on Tue, Mar 13, 2018 at 10:46 AM

In a press conference devoid of most details, the City of Savannah has confirmed that Vice President Mike Pence will be in Savannah this Saturday to attend the St. Patrick's Day parade.

There have been no other specific details released.

"The Vice President will join Mayor Eddie DeLoach in welcoming participants and parade-goers this day," said City spokesperson Michelle Gavin. "The Mayor is honored to welcome the Vice President and members of his family to our city and to what we believe is the world's greatest St. Patrick's Day celebration."

Gavin said the City has been working with White House staff, the St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee, and law enforcement agencies to plan the visit.

"For national security reasons I am not able to release any other details at this time," she said, promising additional news conferences as the day gets closer, including "dos and don'ts for parade goers."

When questioned whether paradewatchers would be able to go to the usual squares to enjoy the parade, Gavin said can't comment as to what security measures will be in place in what areas.

"Today we're focusing on the excitement of the Vice President's visit," she said, promising more information perhaps as soon as possible.


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Reports: Vice President Pence might attend St. Patrick's Day Parade

Posted By on Sun, Mar 11, 2018 at 7:42 PM

Some reports indicate that Vice President Mike Pence is planning to attend the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Savannah on Saturday.

However, there is no official confirmation as of this writing.

Local reports cite unnamed sources with the City and with the Parade committee that Pence's office is expected to announce it officially soon.

The reports indicate that Pence would only march and/or ride in the parade for a few blocks.

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