Savannah City Council proposes moratorium on future hotel development

Savannah City Council proposes moratorium on future hotel

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - For the first time since a nearly unanimous decision to vote down two zoning amendments in a council meeting, we're following up with one Savannah city council member and some living in the neighborhoods around the properties in question.

The property owner wants the zoning at Liberty and Tattnall streets to change from a residential classification to central business to allow for a lounge attached to the proposed hotel.

At an empty lot sitting across from Forsyth Park on Drayton Street, the developer there wants to add an additional story to that structure. But Savannah City Council members made it clear at their last meeting zoning changes are something they don't take lightly.

"Zoning can last for a very, very long time. Everything we do regarding land-use affects zoning, and affects how people live, where they live, and the quality of life," said District 1 Alderman Van Johnson.

Johnson went a step further, proposing before any more zoning requests cross their desk - specifically from hotels - that a moratorium is placed on further hotel developments.

"What we proposed really, was to put a pause button on all of this. Let's take a step back. Let's look at this entire thing and come up with a vision of what we want our city to look like as it relates to tourism," said Alderman Johnson.

City staff is looking into the gallery of a moratorium, and what steps it can take by law.  Alderman Johnson says there's been a mixed bag of reaction since Thursday's meeting.

"Developers are saying wait, wait, wait, we need to keep pushing. And then you have resident saying, hey you know, good job. So that's the nature of the work that we do," Alderman Johnson said.

While some developers I spoke to Monday, as well as representatives from the business industry, did not want to comment on the issue until the city officially decides what to do, I did hear from one resident near the site off Drayton Street near Forsyth Park.

"We are concerned that it will set a precedence if they allow more stories, that it will change the character of our neighborhood, where we live," said Keli Greenwood.

Greenwood says she'd like to see specific guidelines in place for developers that will make sure whatever goes in this empty lot will blend in with the surrounding neighborhood.

"To me, it has to be historically correct with brick mold, with eyebrows, with shutters with those types of things to make it look like it was built in the 1800s," Greenwood said.

Alderman Johnson says the city's action isn't an action to weaken the hotel and tourism industry. He says council's role, in part, is to make sure there is balance and that the industry does not interfere with the quality of life of Savannah's citizens.

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