Council Approves Controversial Development - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

04/13/06

Council Approves Controversial Development

Land proposed as the site for a low-income housing project off Skidaway Road in Savannah is already zoned for multifamily use, but many residents in nearby neighborhoods say they don't want it there. Today the issue came before Savannah City Council for a vote.

Council members voted yes on the proposal. However, it was not a unanimous decision. Today's hearing was highly emotional, and obviously a lot of people are disappointed.

Prior to this afternoon's vote, council members met this morning for a workshop, discussing concerns that have been brought up by residents in the area regarding the proposed development. However, some people feel this workshop was pointless.

"This council, this mayor and the city manager has known about this project for almost to years," said Elizabeth Scott, executive director of the Bacon Park Neighborhood Association. "They had already voted yes on it."

The council voted on three issues. The first, that they would support the development of this project; second, that they would loan the Paces Foundation $150,000; and last, they would sell them three acres of vacant land adjacent to the property

All three measures passed.

"It's very unsettling that the elected officials that we elected and asked them, as well as instructed them how to vote and represent us, they failed to do so," said Rick Wells, vice president of the Bacon Park Neighborhood Association.

But this isn't the end for residents in the area. "We'll make sure they don't get the tax credits," promised Sabrina Kent, president of the Nottingham Neighborhood Association. "We have a petition signed by every neighbor in the community and we will hand-deliver it tomorrow and make sure it doesn't happen."

And as for the builders, they're just glad this challenge has been put to rest. Jon Toppen, vice president, Paces Foundation, told us, "The city council has entrusted us with a great responsibility. We have to listen to the neighbors. We have a lot of stakeholders. The city has put a lot of faith in us. We need to deliver on our promise and come through and do our best to make this an asset for the City of Savannah."

This decision did not come quickly. Several council members said this vote has been on their minds for a while, and you could tell this was one vote that was hard on a lot of them.

There were a couple of meetings with the neighbors that were pretty heated. For the most part, today's wasn't. But in the weeks leading up this, it hasn't necessarily been the case. One council member said he had a rock thrown through his house window and residents on Malibu Circle had their cars egged, so needless to say, this situation has been rough on everyone involved.

Reported by: Christy Hutchings, chutchings@wtoc.com

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