SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah’s decades-old framework for zoning is just a few more steps away from getting a major overhaul.
Years of work from community stakeholders, city staff and elected leaders, along with the Metropolitan Planning Commission have helped shape what’s called NewZo.
“I can assure you that you have city-wide and broad support for this ordinance. The time for NewZo is now,” said one stakeholder at Thursday’s council meeting.
One by one, community members shared with council how NewZo would affect them, largely for the better if the city adopts the new zoning framework.
“I think NewZo would help create a more dense and more serviceable city that will help us financially as well far into the future," said Clinton Edminster, Chatham Area Transit board member and leader of the Thomas Square Neighborhood Association.
Sharing his opinion on why NewZo is needed was Savannah architect Eric Brown.
“NewZo will allow a lot of things that should be happening, to happen,” Brown said.
Brown gave the example of what small business owners have to go through when it comes to starting up a business in the city.
“We’ve got layers and layers and layers, and really it’s just an administrative burden for staff to figure out, for folks like myself to figure out, and then the poor small business owner who has to get through that system, it’s literally impossible to understand it, and then you get the barrier of non-conforming on top of it,” Brown said.
It’s not just businesses having to jump through hoops with current zoning.
Brown pointed out to council during the public hearing that 70 percent of one of Savannah’s most iconic streets - Jones Street - is illegal under the current code in some manner, for things like parking or lot coverage.
“To me, that indicates a problem. When one of our most beloved things doesn’t work under the code, it’s time for code reform," Brown said.
Savannah’s Planning and Urban Design Director, Bridget Lidy, says if council approves at the first and second reading next month, then they’ll look to implement NewZo the first of September.