Committee discusses Project DeRenne with city council - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Committee discusses Project DeRenne with city council

By Don Logana - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The Project DeRenne advisory committee met with Savannh City Council members Thursday morning to make their latest recommendations for DeRenne Avenue.

The advisory committee is suggesting a Boulevard Option which they say would protect many existing single family homes and help maintain other existing structures.

The proposal suggests putting in a fly-over, which would start on I-516 and end near the Hunter Army Airfield gate on Montgomery Street, connecting to Hampstead Avenue, which would become four lanes.

The plan also includes widening Hampstead Avenue and adding new traffic signals to help reduce the volume of traffic and delays on DeRenne.

The advisory committee said this plan would cost between $42 million and $49 million.

They said the city would also have to purchase properties as part of the plan which includes 10 to 15 single family homes, 2 to 3 multi-family buildings, 8 to 12 commercial properties and two small mobile home parks.

Between 20 to 30 more properties may be indirectly impacted by the plan as well.

However, city council members get the final say.

For Hampstead Avenue residents, this option would change many of their lives.

It's no secret on Hampstead Avenue. They have always been part of the future of Derenne Avenue, many times discussion of taking homes and widening the road to make it a bypass, which at times, already is for some motorists.

"It's gotten to the point where now, where we homeowners are ready to move on with our lives," Melissa Bates told WTOC.

Bates lives on Hampstead and has been representing her neighbors on the Project Derenne community advisory board.

"We've been on hold for many years not knowing what will happen," she said.

After decades of talk and squabbling, and two years of bringing every group affected by possible changes to the table to get on the same page, Bates and other committee members brought their recommended plan for action to the Savannah City Council Thursday morning.

The plan settled on, and signed off on by everyone from residents to businesses and even Hunter Army Airfield, is called the "Boulevard Option."  This option is expected to drastically cut down Derenne Avenue traffic from Montgomery Street to Abercorn Street. It would also mean many of the people along Hampstead, including Bates, could lose their homes and be bought out by the city.

"This was not Melissa Bates' decision. This is the decision of the homeowners on Hampstead, Poplar Place, University Place. I had to feel comfortable with what we, as a community, decided to recommend," Bates said.

After two years of settling on an option everyone could agree on, Savannah City Council members aren't so ready to hop on board with the "Boulevard Option."

"We appreciate whole heartedly the efforts of the community but they need to be reminded in discussing these options we have to weigh the pros and cons of cost and time concerns," Jeff Felser, Aldermna-at-Large, told WTOC.

Felser was quick to point out, this plan is just the beginning and not approved by council. Even if the city does agree to move forward,  he says it could be more than 10 years before it becomes reality, as eminant domain and fair market value issues take a lot of time.

"This is a long term, long range, very expensive project, no matter what option takes place," Felser said.

"Well, we've already put in decades, so you know, we are just looking for a final decision at this point and go from there," Bates said.

City officials will now look over the proposal before making any decisions about the project and want residents to know that no decisions or agreements about Project DeRenne have been finalized.

For more information on the project, visit  http://projectderenne.com/.

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