Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Controversial items set for final Council meeting of DeLoach era

Posted By on Wed, Dec 18, 2019 at 10:39 AM

This Thursday, the final City Council meeting of the outgoing DeLoach administration will feature some controversial last-minute items.

Chief among them is a costly "Vision 2033" strategic master plan which has critics fuming that the future of the City is being given over to the same good-ole-boy network that has called most of the shots for years.

Under the proposal a new nonprofit would be created to help formulate the plan, intended to go into effect around the time of the tricentennial of Savannah's founding in 1733.


Heading the new nonprofit would be Steve Green, a local property developer and manager who has long been a key member of both the local Savannah Economic Development Authority and the Chamber of Commerce, and active in various local political campaigns.

In addition to at least a million dollars in City taxpayer funds, the nonprofit would raise money from high-profile entities such as Georgia Power, Georgia Ports Authority, Gulfstream, Colonial Oil, and Comcast — all of whom are also promised advisory input on the City master plan. 

Other members of the local establishment which will have seats on the nonprofit board include the sitting Mayor, the sitting City Manager, the Chair of SEDA, another member appointed by SEDA, the Chair of the Chamber of Commerce, and the Chair of the Metropolitan Planning Commission.

Citizen input is limited to an advisory board, which would include representatives of neighborhood associations appointed by the City, "representatives of governmental, educational and health care institutions including Chatham County, the MPC, Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools, Savannah State, Georgia Southern, SCAD, St. Josephs/Candler, and Memorial Health," and representatives of community organizations such as the United Way, NAACP, Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, and civic clubs.


The total cost of formulating Vision 2033 is slated at about $2.5 million. In addition to the $1 million pledged by the City, SEDA is expected to pay $250,000. The rest presumably would be raised from the corporate partners cited above.

Another controversial item on the list is a proposed 32-year extension of the portion of the hotel/motel tax that funds the Savannah Convention Center on Hutchinson Island. (formerly called the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center).

The Convention Center is primarily a state-run and funded project, governed by the quasi-autonomous Savannah-Georgia Convention Center Authority. But a portion of the City's six percent hotel/motel tax goes to it and the Civic Center, to help defray operating expenses.

The current 20-year agreement is set to expire on December 31, 2026. If approved, the extended 32-year term would expire on December 31, 2052.

The Convention Center is currently slated for a massive expansion which will essentially double its capacity and footprint.


Another contentious item has since been pulled from the agenda for now. The historic but unmaintained historic Powder Magazine would have been involved in a selling of City surplus property to a developer for affordable housing.

While the original proposal included a clause to preserve the Powder Magazine as part of a park, the item was pulled from the agenda when at least one City Alderman said they had been unaware of the proposal and that it needed more scrutiny.

The property in question is off Ogeechee Road in the Chatham Parkway area.

In much less divisive business, City Council is expected to approve the official Festival days for the 2020 St. Patrick's Day Festival.

While the St. Patrick's Day Parade itself will happen on Tuesday, March 17, the official City celebration is set for the prior weekend of March 13-15.

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