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Port Wentworth council passes resolution to support study to look at dividing city

Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 6:05 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 25, 2022 at 9:07 AM EDT
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PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. (WTOC) - This was the first time all Port Wentworth City Council Members were present for a meeting since the city manager resigned in January. They tackled two big items on the agenda, but that didn’t go without push back from the community and questions from council.

”We have not had any power,” said a resident.

A comprehensive plan that serves as the foundation for zoning and land use in the city was adopted Thursday night. This follows a WTOC Investigates story revealing Port Wentworth is out of compliance with the state.

A resident who said she doesn’t want to live near an industrial warehouse park, one of the zoning decisions in the plan, was not happy with council passing the new plan.

”I don’t know what they thinking, but they can’t do that,” said Georgia Benton.

She said the vote wasn’t legal. The city attorney said he has “no comment” on the allegations.

Two councilmembers weren’t comfortable with adopting it. Councilwoman Jo Smith said she hasn’t even seen it.

”This will come back to haunt me if there’s something wrong with this comprehensive plan,” she said.

Councilwoman Gabrielle Nelson also voted against it.

”There was not a big push for the community to have any input,” she said.

Councilmembers also passed a resolution to support a feasibility study on dividing Port Wentworth into two parts that would operate separately. The Carl Vinson Institute of Government would lead it.

In a one-on-one interview, the mayor said he has some reservations.

”It’s got to be feasible. You can’t just say we’re gonna split it at I-95 or city hall,” said Mayor Gary Norton.

Now, the mayor was behind dissolving the city, but lawmakers chose to give the city another chance. That still had residents questioning where the mayor stands.

WTOC’s Alyssa Jackson asked Mayor Norton ”Do you still want to lead Port Wentworth? Do you still want to be the mayor?“

”Yes, I love this city,” he responded.

Councilmembers also voted to go on a retreat in April to receive guidance and training from the Georgia Municipal Association.

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