Thursday, December 19, 2019

New archaeology ordinance passes in emotional final Council meeting of DeLoach administration

Posted By on Thu, Dec 19, 2019 at 4:17 PM

Most of the controversial items for the final regular Council meeting of the DeLoach administration had been removed from the agenda, but the long-awaited passage of Savannah's first-ever archaeological protection ordinance became a reality.

"Historic preservation must include archaeological work to truly protect and preserve our shared history," Elizabeth Dubose, director of the Ossabaw Island Foundation said to Council in support of the ordinance.

Georgia Southern History Prof. Christopher Hendricks said "much of the historic record is unwritten. Women, African Americans enslaved and free... their story is contained in the archaeological record... this ordinance is the first step" towards protecting those stories.

The new Archaeological Resource Ordinance will only apply to public projects on footprints greater than 1500 square feet, and will not apply to any work done on private property.

Those limitations, and the fact that a staff archaeologist position won't be funded right away, caused some supporters of the ordinance to ask that the City have a second reading of the ordinance to give time to improve it before passage.

Preservationist Rebecca Fenwick said the ordinance was "watered down" to please developers. As written, she said "this will pertain to less than one percent of all construction projects" in the city.

Mayor-Elect Van Johnson and Mayor DeLoach both disagreed with the request for a second reading.

Alderman-Elect Nick Palumbo also urged supporters to "take the win today," and pledged his support in putting more teeth in the ordinance once he and the new Mayor and Council take office in January.

Lengthy remarks accompanied this final meeting of the DeLoach administration.

In a particularly heartfelt exchange, Mayor-Elect Johnson told the defeated outgoing Mayor DeLoach, "I want to thank you for your extraordinary service... Public service is hard... you expose yourself to being ridiculed and attacked...  after this process was over, you acted like the gentleman that you are. You've been extremely kind to me."

Controversial 20-year Alderman Tony Thomas made a lengthy farewell speech, saying among other things that "I've been loved. I've been hated. I've been praised and scorned."

After thanking many supporters through the years, he made a comparison between his first term in the Clinton era and his departure in the Trump era.

Alluding to both presidents being impeached, he joked that it was "a full circle."

In other business, Council delayed a proposed land/building swap with SCAD, giving the university the historic downtown Savannah Police Headquarters in exchange for land near the new Arena.

City Manager Pat Monahan said "the exchange is not consummated, the next Council will take that up."

Council also officially adopted the City's 2020 St. Patrick's Day Festival dates of Friday-Sunday March 13-15. The St. Patrick's Day Parade will be on Tuesday, March 17.

Presumably, all efforts to charge for wristbands to consume alcohol in the Festival area will be confined to the weekend, and not affect the Parade day.

The City's Director of Special Events Susan Broker cautioned, "Don't expect a big street party after the parade."
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