February 14, 2018, Council Work Session

Savannah City Government




February 14, 2018 – 10:00 a.m.


Present: Mayor Eddie DeLoach, Presiding

Aldermen: Carol Bell, Julian Miller, Brian Foster,  Tony Thomas, Bill Durrence, John Hall, Estella Shabazz (arrived at 10:20 a.m.), Van Johnson, II (arrived during Executive Session)

Rob Hernandez, City Manager

Brooks Stillwell, City Attorney

William Shearouse, Assistant City Attorney

Jennifer Herman, Deputy City Attorney


Mayor DeLoach called the meeting to order.

City Manager Hernandez welcomed everyone to the meeting wishing them a Happy Valentine’s Day. He then briefly reviewed the Work Session agenda.

Workshop Agenda Items
1. Operation Empower Health – Greater Savannah
Operation Empower Health 021418.pdf

Alderman Bell introduced Operation Empower Health-Greater Savannah presenters, Adam Walker, St. Joseph’s/Candler, and Lieutenant Colonel Andy Magnet, M.D. 

Mr. Walker, Director of Operations for Community Outreach and Mission Services at St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital, reviewed the background of their partnerships and opportunities with Armstrong/Georgia Southern University. The partnership includes a no-cost program they jointly applied for and have since received a grant with the Department of Defense. The program will bring medical, dental and vision services for 4,000 to 6,000 under- and uninsured persons. He stated everyone is invited and welcome to attend to take part in the services that will be provided. He concluded by briefly introducing Lt. Col. Magnet to better explain why the target population is those most in need.

Lt. Col. Magnet, with the 165th Medical Group, reviewed the purpose of Innovative Readiness Training. He stated this will be the flagship mission for the year in Savannah. There will be approximately 400 troops on the ground from all branches of the military, from across the nation. These troops will be coming to help throughout the community beginning May 9 through May 19, 2018. This is a showcase for the Department of Defense, and the City of Savannah will be highlighted during it. Lt. Col. Magnet continued stating services will include medical, dental and vision care, equivalent to services you would receive at an Urgent Care. In addition, veterinary care, to include spaying, neutering and rabies shots, will be provided which he believes will draw in the homeless population. He concluded stating they are looking to provide triage care now and put them into the right channels for future care. 

Mr. Walker resumed the presentation by discussing follow-up care after the mission. He stated this will involve routing patients into St. Joseph’s/Candler partner clinics such as Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health and J.C. Lewis Primary Health, so they can have a medical home for preventative care. He continued stating the projected value of medical services to be provided is $1.5 million. The community is responsible for taking full advantage of the services. Mr. Walker gave a listing of all the service areas and stated he believes the service most people will take advantage of is dental.

He thanked the City of Savannah for providing use of the Savannah Civic Center, space to provide medical services, as well as space to bed down, and access to shower and kitchen facilities for the troops. He also gave a special thanks to Alderman Bell for all the work she has done.

Alderman Bell discussed how City Council could help get the word out to the citizens of Savannah. She stated there are Save the Date cards, the information has been placed on the City website, and she has been attending Neighborhood Association meetings and spreading the word in the community.

Lt. Col. Magnet stated May 9th will be a setup day. Day 1 for the services will be May 10th and will go through May 19th. However May 19th will be a half day and a give back for all the volunteers that helped to benefit from the services. The hours of operation will be 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Lines will close at 4:00 p.m. daily.

2. Alcoholic Beverage Ordinance Update

Bridget Lidy, Director of Planning and Urban Design, provided an update to the revisions to the Alcoholic Beverage Ordinance. 

She stated the week of March 5th staff will begin engaging with the public again and pushing out information via internet and social media.  Between March 5th and March 26th there will be public meetings at the front end and tail end. The times for the meetings will be 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Alderman Miller asked for an email with the complete schedule.  Ms. Lidy stated when she gets the schedule finalized she will definitely send the information out to Council. She is currently working with the Civic Center to get everything finalized.

After the final meetings on March 26th, staff will begin finalizing all recommendations and sending them to the City Manager for approval for distribution to Council. The hope is to get it on the Council agenda during the month of April.

Ms. Lidy then briefly discussed some of the items staff is looking at, one of which is on the Council agenda today, as a second reading which is the piece on distance requirements. Moving forward there will be discussions about bar cards and back ground checks.

Alderman Thomas asked that when looking at the alcoholic beverage revisions that it be explored to restrict and prohibit the reissuance of licenses for at least a five year period to individuals that surrender their license in lieu of a Show Cause Hearing. This is being suggested in light of the recent events that occurred at the Over Time Sports Bar.

Alderman Miller asked if any charges were filed in the Over Time case and asked if those charges would inhibit the issuance of a license in the future?

Chief Revenew said the participants in the crime are being charged.

3. SPLOST Update
SPLOST Presentation 021418.pdf

Daphanie Williams, Management Services Coordinator with the City Manager’s Office, reviewed the City’s SPLOST program. She began by thanking the residents in the community for supporting and approving SPLOST. She stated to date funding has been allocated to over 300 projects over the history of SPLOST 1-6.

Ms. Williams stated she would be reviewing the following topics during the presentation:

  • What is SPLOST?
  • How can SPLOST proceeds be used?
  • How much has been allocated to City Projects?
  • SPLOST status review (SPLOST 1-6)
  • Next Steps

What is SPLOST?

SPLOST stands for: Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. It is an optional 1% sales tax which must be approved by the voters for up to a six year period for each referendum.  She stated because it is a sales tax, it is not born solely by local residents. 40% of the proceeds are paid for by non-residents.

How can SPLOST proceeds be used?

SPLOST proceeds can be used to fund outlay projects such as: streets, roads, drainage, bridges, police vehicles, fire apparatus, and various facilities. It cannot be used for general maintenance and/or operating costs. 

How much has been allocated to City Projects?

Since 1985, the City has received $524,743,485 in SPLOST allocations. The City has not received this total amount as we are currently in the middle of the SPLOST 6 tax collection period. This amount is budgeted for SPLOST projects to date.

  • The SPLOST 1 (1985-1993) allocation was $9,825,383. The largest category was street improvements. There were a total of 53 projects and 53 were completed.
  • The SPLOST 2 (1993-1998) allocation was $6,989,767. The largest category was street improvements. There were a total of 29 projects and 29 were completed.
  • The SPLOST 3 (1998-2003) allocation was $93,225,710. The largest category was drainage. There were a total of 81 projects and 75 were completed. Six projects are in various phases of the project life cycle. City staff is working to complete these projects.

Ms. Williams stated under the new organizational structure a Capital Projects department has been created to manage larger Capital Improvement Projects (CIP’s).

  • The SPLOST 4 (2003-2008) allocation was $106,093,063. The largest category was drainage. There were a total of 95 projects and 76 have been completed. There are a total of 19 projects that are currently underway.

Alderman Thomas expressed his concerns about outstanding projects and asked if there was an issue that the City doesn’t have the capacity to keep up with the projects.  City Manager Hernandez replied from what he understands there is no requirement in State law that the projects must be completed in a specific period of time. It’s realistic to assume that many of the projects will be completed within the tax collection period. However, there are other projects that don’t get started until most of the funds have been collected.

  • The SPLOST 5 (2008-2014) allocation was $118,609,562. The largest category was facilities. There were a total of 34 projects and 18 have been completed. There are a total of 16 projects that are underway.

City Manager Hernandez discussed the Wheaton Streetscape Improvements. He stated the City set funds aside for the project but the State came in with a different funding source. Improvements were made and those additional dollars are available. He continued stating there is an item on the Council agenda for today asking Council to approve a budget amendment to transfer the funds from the Wheaton Streetscape project to the Waters Avenue Phase 2 Streetscape project.  He stated the second project he would like to discuss is the MLK Corridor former Savannah Pharmacy project. He stated staff has been looking at the project and have been trying to redesign it, but due to lack of funds, and even trying to scale back some, it doesn’t provide the City with the utility or use that was initially envisioned. At a later date, staff will be coming back to Council requesting that the project be put in the banks and transfer the funds to another project which will most likely be Central Precinct as funds are still short there or another project to benefit the MLK Corridor such as another streetscaping project.

Alderman Foster asked what the dollar amount on the site is. City Manager Hernandez replied currently there are $1.9 million remaining in the account. The estimate to complete the project is $2.6 million, and that’s for a significantly scaled back project and staff doesn’t think it is something that should be pursued.  Alderman Foster then asked how much is the City short on the Central Precinct project? City Manager Hernandez replied the latest estimate is that we are $1 million short. He reminded Council that Central Precinct was scaled back as well.

Alderman Shabazz expressed her concerns about the City Manager’s suggestions as it relates to the Savannah Pharmacy building. She stated at that time a historic building was torn down that was a monument to the community, and it concerns her each time she passes by the vacant lot.  She asked if the lot will remain vacant?

City Manager Hernandez replied what staff would be recommending is to put the property up for sale, as it is currently owned by the City. He stated this would be a way to see if the City can entice some type of private development on the site. He continued stating staff recognizes the historical significance of the site and the City preserved materials and artifacts from the building, a lot of which is in our historical collections. The goal is to one day get to a point where the City can display a lot of those artifacts to the public. He concluded stating the City is prepared to memorialize the significance of what took place on the site through the appropriate historical markers and things of that nature. 

Alderman Shabazz stated it’s a sad day for her as the building was a part of the City’s historical culture.

Alderman Durrence asked about the process to reallocate the funds. City Manager Hernandez replied it would be a budget amendment moving the funds from one SPLOST account to another.

Alderman Bell asked if there has been any engagement with the community relative to repurposing. City Manager Hernandez replied not yet as those conversations do not typically take place in advance without receiving direction from Council.

Attorney Stillwell stated the State law specifically provides for that process, if a project is deemed infeasible.

Ms. Williams continued the presentation picking up with SPLOST 6 allocations. She stated we are in the middle of the tax collection period and all funding has not been received as of yet.

  • The SPLOST 6 (2014-2020) allocation was $190,000,000. The largest category is facilities. There are a total of 69 projects and 20 have been completed to date. 49 projects are currently underway.

City Manager Hernandez highlighted the Grant Community Center project in District 1. He stated staff has been looking at the existing facility and there isn’t a lot that can be done with the $1.9 million that was allocated for the project. The recommendation that staff is going to make is rather than putting the $1.9 million into the existing facility, they want to acquire more land adjacent to the facility and build a new one. He concluded stating they plan to engage the community for input before making a final decision.

He also discussed the new funds that have been set aside for the new Public Safety Facility on Hutchinson Island. He stated those funds have been reallocated to the Highlands Fire Station.

Next Steps

Ms. Williams discussed the new signage that staff has been working on. She stated one of the first sites that will receive the new sign is Central Precinct. In addition, there will be utility bill inserts and website updates.

Alderman Miller stated the community should be sick of seeing the signs and they should be everywhere.

City Manager stated staff will be aggressive at putting signs out on projects that are underway.

Alderman Bell stated the City isn’t getting credit for the work that has been done and believes the City needs to do a better job at telling its story and showing the community work is being done.

Alderman Thomas suggested a monthly SPLOST kick off update through the Office of Public Communications and the local media so the community can see the Penny at Work. He concluded stating if it’s five projects highlight all five but at least set a goal to highlight at least one per month.

City Manager Hernandez stated the next steps are the utility bill inserts and hopefully with that it will get people to focus on the positives. Alderman Bell expressed her concern about the cost of the insert. City Manager Hernandez stated it was done in-house, the City would only have to pay for the printing which is approximately $4,500 for 70,000 to 80,000 copies.

Ms. Williams continued the discussion about next steps. City Manager Hernandez stated conversations have begun for preparations for SPLOST 7. He asked Council for feedback on what capital improvement projects they would like to see included in SPLOST 7. 

Alderman Shabazz stated she believes public safety is the number one priority, then parks and recreation, and followed by drainage.

Alderman Foster stated one of the big negatives over the past several decades is doing projects where we don’t have the operating funds, because this is only capital. He recommended any project done that requires operating expense that staff comes up with the budgeted funds to cover the operations. He used the Cultural Arts Center as an example.

Alderman Hall stated he would like to incorporate traffic calming into public safety.

Alderman Durrence stated it would be hard to argue with any of these, as important criteria. He stated the real issue will be more about how to prioritize based on the amount of money collected. He stated all of these items are important to him but a particular issue for him is roads, streets, sidewalks, and bridges as the City’s roads and sidewalks are a mess.  Alderman Foster agreed with him.

Alderman Thomas stated public safety is number one, but he doesn’t think it is that important to build a new precinct if there are viable facilities that can be worked out of and giving us favorable lease options.  He continued stating the issue he sees goes to neighborhood vitality, as there are a lot of declining neighborhoods in the City. He wants to take a holistic approach in looking at neighborhoods, and possibly incorporate them under parks and recreation. He also stated infrastructure would be key as well and the City needs to do everything it can to stabilize neighborhoods.

Alderman Hall added he thinks what Alderman Thomas said is important because we want to keep families in the neighborhoods and improve the quality of life for the residents in our City.

Alderman Miller stated this is a great list and a good start. The first thing is we’ve got to take care of our City offices and City staff. He also agreed that traffic calming needs to be a part of it. He continued stating when we talk about recreation he wants to redefine that as youth sports activities or sports activities. He continued stating when we get to a SPLOST situation he hopes we will team up with the County and the Board of Education on facilities to somehow work together.

Alderman Bell asked if SPLOST funds can be used to expand, refurbish and/or renovate existing facilities? City Manager Hernandez replied yes. Alderman Bell stated if that is the case then staff should start looking at some of the existing parks and outdoor spaces in some of the neighborhoods.

Alderman Miller stated he has been working with Aldermen Thomas and Shabazz on the Southside, and there are a lot of people that feel disenfranchised from the City. One of the things they discussed is the need for a facility on the Southside where people can go to take care of all their City business, like a multi-service office.

City Manager Hernandez replied the same conversation is occurring in the Highlands area as well. 

Alderman Thomas stated he thinks there also needs to be some focus on the southern western portion of the City as well.

4. Historic District Zoning Ordinance Revisions
Proposed Revisions to the Historic District Ordinance 021418.pdf

Ellen Harris, Director of Urban Planning and Historic Preservation with the Metropolitan Planning Commission, reviewed the background of the ordinance and previous revisions.  She stated the ordinance only applies to the Landmark District.  The last major update was done in 2009, which included Large Scale Development Standards and establishing the concept of a Bonus Story. She stated in 2015, the Historic Review Board noticed significant development and the ordinance wasn’t working as it was envisioned requiring a lot of variances and the Large Scale Development Standards were not working well.  She stated the revision process began in 2015 with public meetings, to include 14 public hearings. In addition, key stakeholders were contacted to provide feedback and input.

Ms. Harris continued stating the purpose of the revisions is to:

  • Correct errors, provide clarifications, fix inconsistencies
  • Respond to changing technologies, materials, design trends (reduce variance requests)
  • Ensure high quality, compatible large scale development
  • Ensure “bonus story” is earned and enforceable

Ms. Harris briefly provided some examples of each of the aforementioned purposes.  She then discussed the current criteria for a bonus story, as well as the proposed changes to the criteria which would close loopholes that currently exist. The bonus story requirements are voluntary, only if the developer chooses the bonus story. She also discussed the changes that will occur to active uses. Council asked for clarification regarding the bonus story criteria regarding ground floor active uses and primary entrance requirements, as well as drop off for hotels. Ms. Harris informed Council that the entrance and drop off should not be incorporated within the primary façade by possibly utilizing lanes. She continued stating in situations where this can’t be avoided a variance will be issued.

City Manager Hernandez stated item 8 on the Council agenda is a motion to amend the Zoning Ordinance to incorporate the changes provided during the presentation. Since Council is just receiving this information today, he will be recommending a 60 day continuance to the meeting of April 12th.  He stated this will allow more time to review the proposed changes. He stated there were some correspondences received from the business community and staff would like time to meet with them and the MPC.

Alderman Durrence stated there is a tentative schedule that has been received for publishing the New ZO the first part of April, and asked why these adjustments wouldn’t be made a part of the New ZO.  Council members discussed whether there had been enough public input and the possible need for more input as some stakeholders could view this as a taking. Attorney Stillwell recommended hearing it separately which allows the people that are focused on it to do so separately from New ZO.

Council came to a consensus to continue the item for 60 days, with two public meetings occurring during that time, and then to incorporate it into the New ZO if possible. City Manager Hernandez stated the New ZO is scheduled to come before City Council for consideration sometime in October for consideration.

5. Real Estate, Personnel, Litigation

Upon motion of Alderman Durrence, seconded by Alderman Hall, and unanimously carried Council went into Executive Session for the purpose of discussing Litigation, Personnel and Real Estate.

Upon completion of this session, a motion was made to come out of Executive Session by Alderman Johnson, seconded by Alderman Miller, and unanimously carried.

6. City Manager’s Briefing / Council Meeting Agenda Items for February 14, 2018

City Manager Rob Hernandez presented the City Manager’s Briefing of the agenda items for the Council Meeting of February 14, 2018. The agenda can be found online and will be made a part of the permanent record.

Luciana Spracher, Acting Clerk of Council, stated the boards, commissions and authorities application period recently closed and the office received a total of 45 applications. There is time during the March 1st Work Session for Council to make the appointments and possibly conduct interviews of applicants. She asked for direction from Council on which boards, commissions and authorities they wanted to interview for. Council came to a consensus to interview the applicants for the Historic District Board of Review and Savannah Zoning Board of Appeals.

An initial screening will be done of all applicants and Council will provide a short list of individuals they would like to interview during the first hour of the March 1st Work Session.


There being no further business, Mayor DeLoach declared this Work Session adjourned.


The video recording of the Work Session can be found by copying and pasting the below links in  your url:


Luciana M. Spracher, Acting Clerk of Council
Agenda Plus