|August 16, 2018 City Council Workshop|
Savannah City Government
COUNCIL WORK SESSION & CITY MANAGER’S BRIEFING
August 16, 2018 – 10:00 a.m.
Present: Mayor Eddie DeLoach, Presiding
Aldermen: Julian Miller, Brian Foster, Tony Thomas (arrived at 10:20 a.m.), Van Johnson, II (arrived at 10:15 a.m.), Estella Shabazz (arrived at 10:30 a.m.), Bill Durrence
Rob Hernandez, City Manager
Bret Bell, Assistant to the City Manager
Brooks Stillwell, City Attorney
Jennifer Herman, Deputy City Attorney
William Shearouse, Assistant City Attorney
ABSENT: Aldermen Carol Bell, John Hall
City Manager Hernandez welcomed everyone to the meeting and briefly reviewed the agenda..
Mayor DeLoach announced that Alderwoman Carol Bell was out of town and Alderman John Hall was tied up at work and would be in later.
|Workshop Agenda Items|
|1. Real Estate Services: 2nd Quarter Update|
|081618 Real Estate Services Q2 Update.pdf|
David Keating, Real Estate Services Director, reviewed the life cycle of real estate which includes the following:
Mr. Keating stated prior to the City’s reorganization, the life cycle of real estate was very disjointed. No department managed the entire life cycle and there were many inconsistent practices and transitions. He stated in the operations and maintenance phase bureaus were focused on programs and operations versus facilities which means it wasn’t always a priority for them. After the reorganization three of the four stages (acquisition, operations & maintenance, and disposition) are controlled by the Real Estate Services Department. The benefits include:
Mr. Keating then briefly reviewed the structure of the department. He stated they report to the Chief Operations Officer, there is one director, an assistant director and one senior administrative assistant. He stated there are five operating units within the department, which include: the Transactions and Property Management Unit; the Facility Maintenance Unit; the Cemeteries Unit; the Civic Center Unit; and the Visitors Center Unit. Mr. Keating briefly introduced the directors over the various units that were present:
Mr. Keating reviewed recent transactions to include facility leases. Within that group are:
Mr. Keating continued the discussion on transactions stating so far this year staff has closed on approximately $3.1 million in real estate. The two largest transactions were the site at MLK & Hall Street and the former Paulsen building. He continued stating there is currently approximately $5.7 million worth of property under contract to include: the Bull Street property and the site next to the Police Headquarters on Habersham and Oglethorpe. Mr. Keating stated there is approximately $20 million worth of property pending award which includes the Gamble Building, BMB, Liberty Building, the former Fire Station on Henry Street, and other properties. He stated the sale of the Broughton Municipal Building should be on the Council agenda for today and the others will be coming back to Council soon.
Mr. Keating stated approximately $30 million worth of property is expected to sell in 2018/2019, which is a combination of properties that have already closed and others that are upcoming. He stated there is the opportunity to increase that number as staff is going out to evaluate what parcels the City currently has and ones there is no longer a need for. He took a moment to recognize staff for their hard work and excellent results. He stated the Real Estate department has two licensed brokers, and two licensed sales people which isn’t a requirement to do government real estate. He stated there is also a team member with a law degree, one with an architectural degree, and one with extensive right-of-way experience. Mr. Keating stated staff believes they could benefit by retaining the experience of a broker as this would help them to reach out nationally and internationally by bringing in their affiliations and access to contacts with buyers and investors. Mr. Keating continued stating the City of Savannah attracts interest from around the world, and staff is interested in being able to access a greater pool of buyers. He stated there is an item on today’s agenda requesting Council approval to retain a broker.
Mr. Keating briefly reviewed the City’s portfolio stating it is large with approximately 1,300 parcels identified by a Board of Assessors (BOA) Property Identification Number (PIN). These properties include more than 125 buildings ranging from City Hall to pump houses and hundreds of miles of right-of-ways which includes roads, canals, etc. He stated staff is assessing each parcel to see if there is a need or if it can be disposed of to be placed back on the tax roll. He stated 349 of the properties are FEMA deed restricted parcels, and cannot be sold. He stated staff needs a creative reuse plan within the constraints of the deed restrictions. Mr. Keating stated the goal is to sell properties that are no longer needed to reduce the expenses and liabilities and redeploy capital.
Mr. Keating reviewed the disposition process which is mandated by State law. The process includes the following steps:
Mr. Keating recognized and thanked the Purchasing and Legal departments for their help with this process.
He then reviewed a snapshot of the City’s facilities stating there are more than 125 buildings which is approximately 1.3 million square feet. Mr. Keating stated currently the City is undergoing a facility realignment plan which includes: vacating/selling 200,000 square feet (BMB, Gamble, Liberty, etc.); plan to demolish 80,000 square feet at the City Lot for the new arena. He stated this plan will leave a remainder of about 1 million square feet that suffers from extensive deferred maintenance that needs to be addressed. Mr. Keating stated new buildings are being planned, 450-550,000 square feet these include the New Arena, Administrative Complex, Public Works Complex, Public Safety Facilities, PARC, Cultural Arts, etc. He stated the City’s portfolio is growing and combined the projected ending inventory is between 1.4 – 1.6 million square feet. He stated construction is only one part, once built they must be operated and maintained.
Mr. Keating discussed the facility maintenance and management process stating there is both a reactive and proactive facility maintenance operation. The reactive is when staff receives calls through 311, these include internal and external reports through the 311 system. He stated there have been 1,534 work orders during the 1st half of the year. Mr. Keating stated staff also does preventive maintenance which includes air filters, etc., and they also try to cure deferred maintenance. He concluded stating the facility managers perform facility assessments, furniture replacements, department relocations, etc.
Alderman Miller commended Mr. Keating stating he finds his department very easy to work with, very responsive, effective and efficient. He stated having worked in some of the buildings he knows some were deplorable to work in and will take a lot to fix. He knows he inherited the problem as well as Council but reassured him that he is doing a great job.
Alderman Foster agreed with Alderman Miller. He thanked City Manager Hernandez and Mr. Keating for what has been accomplished. He asked the City Manager to comment on the proceeds. City Manager Hernandez stated with regards to the closing of the property on Montgomery Street, those proceeds were redirected back into the Cultural Arts Center project. Beginning with the Paulson Building, which is the first of several large scale transactions, those funds are going into a segregated fund that will be used for future facility replacements, whether it’s the new public safety building, or the administrative complex, the funds will be in that holding account. He concluded stating all of the other miscellaneous sales that occur throughout the year those funds will go back into the respective fund that purchased the property to begin with.
Alderman Foster replied he just wanted people to understand that the funds are being put aside for future buildings.
City Manager Hernandez stated the proceeds from the former MLK Savannah Pharmacy site, which was a SPLOST project, will go back into the SPLOST fund in the corridor for reallocation for other projects should the property sell. Alderman Johnson commented, with a marker.
Alderman Miller stated the City is always chastised about the need to manage the money better. He stated this is managing money better, when you have 200,000 square feet of vacant space that is expensive. He continued stating vacant buildings sitting are not free, they deteriorate many times at a faster rate, having them is expensive and having them off the tax roll is expensive, securing them is expensive and those few things alone could bankrupt a company. These are the things that are oftentimes overlooked but the only way for the public to know is if we tell them. He concluded stating the City is managing things better, getting these things off our expense list and focusing on the things we need to focus on.
City Manager Hernandez stated in many of these properties when we decide to dispose of them it isn’t just about selling them, that’s why we use the RFP method rather than just doing an auction and selling to the highest bidder. He stated we are concerned about the long-term economic development potential for some of these properties. He stated we want to know what are the highest and best uses of the site, what is a developer willing to build on the site, does the project fit into the overall fabric of the neighborhood, and ultimately we are looking at the long-term potential of that project and not just the sales price. He concluded stating this is important to discuss today because he is sure that Council has probably heard from people in the community about the BMB sale.
Alderman Thomas asked City Manager Hernandez to clarify where the money goes, he heard him say there’s a holding fund and that sales go back into the fund originally purchased from.
City Manager Hernandez replied funds from large transactions go to a holding account for future facilities. Properties purchased with restricted funds go back to that fund.
Alderman Thomas held a brief discussion on leases and general fund operating expenses.
Alderman Durrence stated he just wanted to clarify that the $30 million is one-time money and won’t solve our budget problems.
Alderman Thomas stated that’s misleading because it’s not one-time money when you’re having to adjust for the cost of leasing buildings that the City didn’t lease previously. He stated when you take the amount that it will cost to house the employees that once were in those buildings, that figure isn't one-time money.
Alderwoman Shabazz asked for clarity on how something is worded on the Council agenda. She stated it says there were over 300 notices sent out and asked how DBE’s were included?
City Manager Hernandez replied general language was put in the RFP regarding the Hire Savannah program and proposers were asked to make good faith efforts to use DBE firms in any construction activities that occur on that property, and to use WorkSource Coastal as their first source for hiring. Alderwoman Shabazz stated with the 300 notices that were sent out, with no responses, how is it being tracked and why aren’t they responding?
Mr. Keating stated he thinks that is a question for the Purchasing department. But when an RFP is issued they have a list of vendors interested in certain opportunities. He stated this is a purchase contract, not a construction contract. He stated they try to incentivize buyers to commit.
City Manager Hernandez stated Joe Shearouse, Jr. has been undertaking a review of the City’s purchasing practices and doing a survey because we are trying to see why we have such a low response rate (in general) for all bids, solicitations and RFP’s of all sorts.
Alderman Johnson asked stated it’s a small pool.
Mayor DeLoach stated he believes there are ghost companies sitting on the books who aren’t in business anymore.
Alderwoman Shabazz asked how are we evaluating, how are we tracking?
City Manager Hernandez stated this isn’t a conversation about DBE’s and he isn’t prepared to discuss that today. But is more than happy to have that discussion at a later date when staff has had time to prepare.
Alderwoman Shabazz stated it is unusual to see DBE on a real estate RFP which is why she brought it up.
Alderman Miller stated he thinks it’s a good idea to look at why we aren’t getting responses. He stated the City Manager inherited a City with a reputation that it’s difficult to deal and correspondences were received recently that alluded to that and it’s something that he is working on but the baggage from years past is still there. He stated communication is difficult and it’s more difficult than it’s ever been. He stated we don’t have the traditional media from the past as it has been dissolved by social media and other aspects.
City Manager Hernandez stated the process in the past has traditionally been to place an ad in the local newspaper which doesn’t have the intended effect anymore. He stated people rely on electronic bid boards which local governments subscribe to. For some of the real estate sales the City took ads out in different publications
Mr. Keating stated they went above and beyond trying to market the properties and expanded the reach nationally. He briefly reviewed the list of outlets used to advertise.
Alderman Johnson asked what the viability is of having a broker versus having someone in house that does the job. Mr. Keating replied the broker would help with the marketing piece, the affiliations and connections to a much broader audience. City Manager Hernandez stated they would also have access to MLS and other listing sources.
Alderman Thomas stated the City needs to be careful with that and ensure the marketing component is open and fair to everyone. City Manager Hernandez stated they would still have to follow the law.
Alderman Thomas stated the City is not in the real estate business, and we shouldn’t be having a fire sale on all of our properties. He stated we have the expertise in house and we need to be very careful to make sure everyone has a fair shake. Referring to the comments of Alderman Miller earlier he stated many people don’t do business with the City because it is very difficult to do business with the City and it’s very cumbersome and that didn’t occur in 2016, he’s been on Council for 20 years and has heard it since he got here.
Mayor DeLoach stated although it’s cumbersome, it doesn’t matter if it’s local, federal or any level of government, if you are willing to do it, you reap the benefits and if you’re not, you don’t.
Alderman Thomas stated personally he believes the problem with contracting with any government, is the lack of education on how to do it.
Mayor DeLoach stated you have to be willing to do this, if you are not willing to do this you won’t participate. He stated regardless of color if you’re disadvantaged you’re disadvantaged. He stated if someone has a desire to do business with the City of Savannah, we will make it our job to give them that opportunity, but they have to walk in the door and participate. He continued stating it is a pain to do business with any government but as a contractor regardless of color, race, or gender you must be willing to do it. The City can’t make someone do it, but they can offer the opportunity. He concluded stating the City is not holding anyone back from doing business with the government, but contractors have to want it and have the gumption.
Alderman Johnson stated he agrees, but for many small businesses time is of the essence and doing all the paperwork is just not worth it.
Mayor DeLoach stated government is not the saving grace for the small business, the private sector is where money is made.
City Manager Hernandez responded to comments made by Alderman Thomas stating with respect to the brokerage firm it must still follow state law, in the marketing and disposing of the property. He stated they must also follow the RFP process. With regard to the fire sale comment, he respectfully disagreed with the description of fire sale. He stated the City has approximately 1,300 properties, many are underutilized and many which are in bad shape. The Broughton Municipal Building, was purchased in 1990 and he agreed with the description used by Alderman Miller of it being deplorable. He stated when you look at the situation of the other buildings that are up for disposition they have water intrusion, mold and so on. He continued stating one reason he recommended looking at the sale of these real estate assets and instead looking at leasing space, is because employees were scattered all over the City, which is extremely inefficient. All of the buildings require extensive repairs and rehabilitation and he doesn’t believe it would be a good business practice to put in money the City doesn’t have to renovate the buildings for them to still be undersized and inefficient. He stated this is the reason he recommended at least for the next several years the City consolidate our operations into the Savannah Morning News building, as it is the only building other than a department store in the Savannah Mall that had enough space to accommodate City staff. Many of Council members have been to the buildings and have seen the deplorable conditions staff work in, he stated as Council is aware complaints about poor customer service come in and it’s no wonder when you see the conditions we put our employees in. He stated these changes are all designed to make the City more efficient and put valuable property back on the tax roll and help us minimize our foot print, and give us the opportunity in the future to build a new complex to help jump start the Arena District. He stated this is some of the rational. He understands it’s different, but ultimately believes it’s in the best interest of the City moving forward. He concluded stating if Council decides to keep any of the buildings there is a carrying cost, and money will need to be spent to refurbish and rehabilitate them.
Alderman Thomas stated he thinks the City Manager needs to be honest with Council when he talks about the repositioning of employees and the amount of money in the bank to build the new administrative complex.
City Manager Hernandez replied its one time dollars associated with the sale of the property and in his opinion are two separate conversations. He stated staff is merely noting for Council the potential yield that the property sales result in. He concluded stating the buildings and facilities need to be brought to present and future and the organization needs to be brought to a moderate level of maintenance and specifications for the employees to work in as that is a part of Council’s strategic goals.
|2. NewZo Update|
|081618 NewZo Update.pdf|
Bridget Lidy, Director of Planning and Urban Design introduced Marcus Lotson, Metropolitan Planning Commission Director of Development Services, Melanie Wilson, Metropolitan Planning Commission Executive Director, and Sean Brandon, Director of Mobility Services.
A brief video was viewed on NewZo.
Ms. Lidy stated NewZo was first discussed in 2007. She stated between 2007-2011 there were more than 75 meetings, with the first draft released in June 2011. She stated Draft 4 is currently available for review. Ms. Lidy reviewed the reason for having a new zoning ordinance stating the benefits include: reducing the impact of incompatible zoning in each district; reducing variance requests; providing framework for improving neglected communities; improving predictability in the development process; addressing the needs of 21st century development; recognizing existing development patterns; and reducing nonconformity.
Mr. Lotson reviewed what staff believes are the most important benefits of the process. He stated he thinks they are on track and making excellent progress. He stated nonconforming conditions will be significantly reduced by the adoption of NewZo. In a single family residential classification (R-6) nonconforming conditions are reduced by over 80 percent. The current ordinance has 6,517 nonconformities, with NewZo there will be 1,291. He stated another goal is to reduce incompatible zoning, which has a huge impact on people’s life, like light and heavy industrial.
Alderman Johnson stated many of them are historically minority communities.
Mr. Lotson continued stating in terms of benefits they wanted to provide flexibility in the use regulations. It’s important to allow for some of the innovation that is developing now. He also stated they want to have consistent standards across use categories, as this is easier for staff when they are trying to help people with questions and for the lay person. He continued stating they want to provide framework for improving neglected communities and closing the gaps and believes NewZo will provide a framework for economic development. He stated the zoning map is being converted in this process. He stated while most zoning classifications primary change is in nomenclature, a process has to be put in place to review requests for zoning corrections. He stated a process will need to be in place to allow people to review what has been changed and have recourse if they disagree with a change. Mr. Lotson then reviewed the ways staff believes NewZo will be improving which include: creating a hybrid form based district or districts to provide maximum flexibility; reviewing processes between City and the MPC, including application and review, to create efficiencies; incorporating information from the Parking Matters study; and addressing comments from stakeholder meetings. Mr. Lotson concluded by thanking the Chamber for their help in organizing 15-18 meetings over the last few weeks for specific stakeholder groups.
Alderman Johnson asked Mr. Lotson if he will be discussing community stakeholders. Mr. Lotson replied yes.
Mr. Brandon stated the pricing component of the Parking Matters study gets the most attention, but it had a fair amount to say about zoning and planning. He stated NewZo incorporates many of the recommendations. NewZo proposes lower minimum ratios for select uses, and offers more substantial reductions in Downtown and Victorian/Streetcar districts.
He stated currently our zoning ordinance required a lot of variances and briefly reviewed the distances. NewZo increases distance-based thresholds for parking sharing: 1,300 feet in Downtown parking districts; 600 feet for other non-residential; and 300 feet for other residential. Alderman Miller asked for clarification about zoning and enforcement. Mr. Brandon stated staff asked consultants to look at the current zoning ordinance and NewZo and peer cities. He stated we will have to have discussions about what it is we want to incentivize. Mr. Brandon continued stating four different focus areas were reviewed to test current development, expected demand, and actual observed parking occupancy from the Parking Matters study.
Alderman Durrence stated he wanted to make sure that everyone understood through most of the BC-1 (Central Business) zoning district there are no parking requirements.
Mr. Brandon stated an analysis was done of shared, unshared, available, remote and peak use, and distance requirements. He stated the challenge is getting people incentivized to get into those remote areas.
Aldermen Miller and Johnson got clarification on available parking remotely.
Alderman Durrence stated contracted satisfies the need.
Mr. Brandon reviewed the Thomas Square area analysis and takeaways to include allowances for street and remote parking.
Mayor DeLoach asked why don’t we do this and make a decision on this?
Mr. Brandon stated he would be all for it but they need to go through the process and would need to come back to Council with recommendations.
Mr. Brandon reviewed the payment in lieu of parking stating if businesses can pay in to some sort of fund instead of providing the spaces and then that fund is used to build parking or specialized transportation services to support the business. The consultant has designed something preliminary. He stated we need to be very comfortable with what the minimums are as that will set the base.
Alderman Miller stated he believes the payment in lieu process proposes it would go towards more parking garages. City Manager Hernandez replied or transportation options. Alderman Miller asked how this is being addressed as he is not aware of any parking garages in progress. City Manager Hernandez replied specifically in the Arena Development District we are looking at building more parking facilities to support the arena and parking overall. Those parking facilities would be used at night and on the weekend for the arena but we want to ensure they are used during the day, and supported by our shuttle system.
Alderman Johnson stated we are really also talking about mindset. People have gotten very used to pulling up right in front of where they want to go and go into that place and we have grown beyond that place. Urban cities across the country have adopted multi-modal transportation, and we have to provide multiple options. Although we are growing, we are not there yet.
Alderman Durrence stated you have to have it in place before people can get use to using it.
Mr. Brandon stated some people have approached staff about getting the shuttle to go to other areas.
Alderman Thomas stated promises were made to employers and asked where we are with that and have they been fulfilled?
Mr. Brandon replied the shuttle system is running until midnight now. Last month there were 50,000 trips. There is a $35/month program for late night workers. He stated staff is currently working on the last part of that which is the late night alternative transportation for workers which should be coming to Council soon. Alderman Thomas asked if the businesses are being educated? Mr. Brandon stated every time we have a substantial change, we print out new flyers and hand those out to businesses and it has been put on the City’s website.
City Manager Hernandez stated the media has been very helpful in communicating service enhancements as well.
Alderman Durrence stated for some of us the shuttle system we currently have is thought of as a beginning in terms of an expanding network as much as possible although there are a few complications. He stated one of them is everywhere we extend a free shuttle someone has to provide free para transit. He stated that needs to be worked out with the County because presently they are responsible for paying for that. He stated the Forsyth shuttle transports 44 riders per hour, which is higher than the CAT routes. Alderman Johnson asked if he thought about why the ridership is so much higher. Alderman Durrence replied because it serves a need and not to get too far off track the CAT fixed route system hasn’t been redesigned in years but they are in the process of doing that now.
Mr. Lotson continued the presentation briefly reviewing the public process including public comments. Ms. Lidy stated they handed out to Council the public comments received, broken down by article/chapter with staff response and if it will or will not be incorporated. She stated the document can also be found on the MPC website.
Ms. Lidy briefly updated Council on the public meetings, open houses, and stakeholder meetings. She stated mailings will be going out within the next two weeks to all property owners. Staff is working with the communications office to create a postcard to go out with the mailings to notify all property owners of NewZo and what will be coming down the pipeline. Ms. Lidy stated the brief video that was shown to Council at the beginning of the meeting will also be posted on the City’s website for the public to view. She stated they will also be working with the Human Services department to reach out to neighborhoods.
Alderman Thomas stated he is hearing a lot of talk about Downtown and asked what about the Southside.
Ms. Lidy replied in May the Congress of New Urbanism came in town. The two areas they looked at were East Savannah and the Southside near Armstrong and the mall. She stated staff plans to review those concepts and plans and see how they can be integrated into NewZo to improve those areas.
Ms. Lidy then reviewed the schedule moving forward stating August 20th Draft 5 will be released, which will reflect comments. In September they will present to MPC and then come with a recommendation to Council at a Work Session. During October, public hearings will be held and we will move for approval by Council. January 2019 is the anticipated effective date.
Mr. Lotson stated even beyond January, if things go as scripted with NewZo, there will still need to be tweaks.
Alderwoman Shabazz stated no discussions were held in reference to no man’s land.
Melanie Wilson stated one of the challenges and opportunities is to work on creating a strategic neighborhood plan that can be implemented. She stated the zoning ordinance will allow us to move forward to look at those orphan areas. She concluded stating she plans to look at each Council member’s district with them to determine if there are other areas that need to be looked at.
Alderman Miller asked if Draft 5 is really just adjustments to previous versions with redlines. Ms. Lidy replied yes. Alderman Miller asked if the redlines will be coming out with it. Ms. Lidy replied yes, it will be out next week. Alderman Miller stated that brings us down to three months and he is just nervous because this has been a long process. He asked if the Developer’s Guidebook, is it complete. Ms. Lidy stated the Developer’s Guidebook is something that was referenced in Article 3, and it has been stricken. Ms. Wilson stated she would like to have a citizens and developers guidebook, she stated it isn’t something that would need to be approved by Council, it’s just a guide and it’s a document MPC will create after it is approved. Alderman Miller clarified statements about the developer’s guidebook. Ms. Wilson stated it’s basically a toolbox, it’s something you basically have that talks about the components of rezoning. She stated the developer’s guidebook does not create policy at all.
Alderman Miller asked about attorneys being involved in stakeholder meetings. Ms. Wilson replied all of the attorneys have been involved, and have been made aware of all meetings. Ms. Lidy added that they have been very open and willing to meet with anyone.
Alderman Thomas stated we have an orphan city south of DeRenne. He stated he represents the Southside, and there are serious parking issues, that he doesn’t see, downtown centric. He stated the separation line in the City is very clear, by the medians. He continued stating he will not support any document that does not take in to consideration those neighborhoods and areas, if it’s not inclusive it won’t get his support. Ms. Wilson stated one of the things that needs to be done, and has to be done is a good comprehensive plan, the zoning ordinance is not that document. This is the policy document that will give us some tools that can be used, but we need to have that plan.
Alderman Thomas stated he wants to ensure that the efforts and meetings that are occurring with the Chamber are being inclusive, neighborhoods outside of the core of the Chamber, as there is a big City, past the Historic District.
Alderwoman Shabazz stated, and that’s been the problem, as there has never been a comprehensive plan in her district.
|3. Executive Session: Real Estate|
Upon motion of Alderman Durrence, seconded by Alderwoman Shabazz, and unanimously carried Council went into Executive Session for the purpose of discussing Real Estate.
Upon completion of this session, a motion was made to come out of Executive Session by Alderman Durrence, seconded by Alderman Johnson, and unanimously carried.
|4. City Council Agenda Review|
City Manager Rob Hernandez presented the City Manager’s Briefing of the agenda items for the Council Meeting of August 16, 2018. The agenda can be found online and will be made a part of the permanent record.
There being no further business, Mayor DeLoach declared this Work Session adjourned.
The video recording of the Council meeting can be found by copying and pasting the below link in your url:
|Luciana M. Spracher, Acting Clerk of Council|