City tackles crime, builds safety at Savannah apartment complex - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

City tackles crime, building safety at Savannah apartment complex


Residents of Savannah's Arbor Cottages counted their blessings Monday, after a judge who'd said she would empty out the apartment complex for tenants' safety gave the landlord another chance.

Crime has been one of the city's and the Savannah-Chatham police department's major issues with the complex.

Steve Varnadoe who owns the property and has been coming before Recorders Court Judge Claire Cornwell Williams nearly every week for two months to update her on his progress.

Star Cpl. Tracy Walden said in a Tuesday hearing that police found 200 pounds of stolen metal in one of the apartments, metal officers say was stolen from a local recycling yard.

Judge Williams signed a warrant to search the Arbor Cottages for that metal Aug. 26. Varnadoe had come before her that same morning to update the judge on progress at the property.

For Williams, a big concern is electrical wiring -- wiring city building officials say may be a fire hazard.

Williams asked whether Varnadoe's electrician had made an appointment for the city to inspect the property. He had not.

"I'm going to have to have the property vacated," Williams said. "I don't have any choice."
That brought tenant Katrina Martin, who came to the hearing to support Varnadoe, to tears.

"If we loose those places, we're putting so many people out on the streets," she said.

In an unusual twist, Williams had Varnadoe contact his contractor via cell phone and put him on speaker in the courtroom. The contractor said electrical work on some of the units is finished and that an appointment was supposed to have been made Monday morning.

Now Varnadoe has another week to get that done.

In an interview after the hearing, Varnadoe described the judge as "an angel."

"She's looking out for us," he said.

Varnadoe will be back in front of the judge next Monday at 11:30 a.m. and is supposed to bring a list of options for private security at the complex.

Both he and police say crime is down at Arbor Cottages. Police credit extra patrols. Varnadoe says it's because he's become more choosy with his tenants.

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