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May 14, 2020 City Council Workshop




May 14, 2020 – 10:00 a.m.


Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, the City Council work session and City Manager’s Briefing was held at 10:03 a.m., via Zoom video communications. Mayor Johnson recognized Alderwoman Bernetta Lanier who then offered the Invocation. 

PRESENT:    Mayor Van R. Johnson, II, Presiding

Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter, At-Large, Post 1, Chairman

Alderwoman Alicia Miller Blakely, At-Large, Post 2

Alderwoman Bernetta B. Lanier, District 1

Alderman Detric Leggett, District  2

Alderwoman Linda Wilder-Bryan, District 3

Alderman Nick Palumbo, District 4, Vice-Chairman

Alderwoman Dr. Estella Edwards Shabazz, District 5, Mayor Pro-Tem

Alderman Kurtis Purtee, District 6



City Manager Pat Monahan

City Attorney Bates Lovett

Director Office of Business Opportunity Manny Dominguez

Clerk of Council Mark Massey

Mayor Johnson reported there are currently several hundred local businesses that have taken the 'Savannah Safe Pledge'.  The Pledge entails, upon reopening, the business will abide by the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control by masking, hand washing and social distancing.  The City has received washable face coverings donated by the US Council of Mayors that will be distributed to the public.  Mayor Johnson gave an update on COVID-19 in the coastal health district.

Alderwoman Miller Blakely reported there will be COVID-19 testing on July 1, 2020 at the Carver Heights Community Center, 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

Workshop Agenda Items
1. Recovery: Expanded Outdoor Dining Pilot

Mayor Johnson introduced City Manager Monahan to begin the work session.  Mr. Monahan gave a brief outline of staff's efforts to establish Parklets for restaurant owners to lease the parking areas directly in front of their restaurants and an expanded outdoor dining pilot program.  He introduced Manny Dominguez, Office of Business Opportunity Director and Bridget Lidy, Director of Planning and Urban Design to expound on both programs.

Mr. Dominguez gave a presentation with detailed information on the following outdoor dining pilot  programs:

  • Business Recovery and Expanded Outdoor Dining
    • Explained the current status (due to the pandemic)
    • Expanding Dining Capacity (alternative seating other than in the restaurant)
    • Sidewalk Dining (temporary through the pandemic)
  • Parklets
    • Temporary use of on-street parking
    • Guidelines for use of on-street dining
    • City and State mandated criteria
    • Street closures 

Alderwoman Miller Blakely asked what is an arterial road.  She informed the public that restaurants outside of downtown are also included in this recovery effort as long as they meet the requirements.

Alderman Palumbo encouraged the City staff to look at other municipalities that have used this model.

Alderman Leggett asked how closing the streets will impact the neighborhoods, how will the neighborhood associations be involved, and how will it effect the flow of traffic in the communities.

Mayor Johnson asked how the effected neighborhoods would be engaged for their input. 

Mayor Pro-Tem Dr. Shabazz asked if the arterial streets are adjacent to a secondary less traveled street, and is there some special consideration for that intersection.  She asked if there is only one business submitting an application within the block for outside/street dining, and will that business be considered for approval.

Mr. Dominguez provided the Economic Development office phone number for businesses to call for information, 912-652-3582.

Alderwoman Lanier thanked the staff for the pilot program.  She expressed concern for the City administration to continue to treat life & death matters as a priority after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Johnson defined 'Resilience Savannah', a term used for initiatives of people and business elements working together for the new normal.  He asked the City Manager for the next steps.

Mr. Monahan advised that he and the City Attorney discussed the next steps needed to implement a plan.  He advised that there will be an item on the May 28, 2020 Agenda, possibly in the form of a Resolution that will allow the suspension of the current rules/Ordinance. 

The information will be on the City's website in the form of an application process.

2. Code of Ethics

City Attorney Bates Lovett presented the information for the Code of Ethics  He previously sent Council a couple proposals for the Ethics Ordinance and discussed the following:

  • Proposal #1 - Campaign Contributions 
  • Proposal #2 - Campaign Contributions (added language: meetings discussions prior to a vote on an award of a contract)
  • Proposal #3 - 2-year limitation on doing business with City (added language:  going forward only)
  • Proposal #4 - Removal from Office (added language:  Grounds for Removal.)
  • Proposal #4 - Removal from Office (listed seven (7) violations)
  • Proposal #4 - Removal from Office (Procedures fr removal.)

Mayor Johnson asked if removal from office is constitutionally driven.

Alderman Palumbo discussed options for strengthening the current Ordinance with Proposal #2, Proposal #3, and Proposal #4.

Alderwoman Wilder-Bryan agreed with Alderman Palumbo and expressed that the City needs to be transparent and open to the citizens.  The citizens or the Governor's office should be the only authority to recall an elected official.

Alderman Purtee agreed with Alderman Palumbo.  He had concerns about a Council Member being  censured.  He asked what grounds will the Council have to address the issue going forward.

Mayor Johnson explained that censure is a public reprimand for bad behavior of an Elected Official.  He explained the majority-will of the Council will be followed.

Alderwoman Miller Blakely asked who are the current members on the Ethics Board and requested Council receive a copy of the member list.  She questioned Attorney Lovett as to Proposal #1's current status, relating to the amount of campaign contributions per individual.       

Alderwoman Gibson-Carter questioned Mr. Lovett on having the Clerk of Council read into the record of any special interest or contract involvement of any Council Member receiving donations for disclosure into the Code of Ethics. 

Mayor Johnson asked Council Members to submit to Attorney Lovett any thoughts within the next week and he will revisit any concerns.

3. Rockingham Farms

City Manager Monahan and Managing Partners of Rockingham Farms, LLC, Mr. Steve Hall and Mr. Jack Wardlaw presented the information on the Rockingham Farms presentation.

Mr. Monahan gave an overall description and background of the project.  The following was discussed:

  • Background of Rockingham Farms Tract
  • Location - Routes to Savannah Port and Interstate Access
  • Owners:  Rockingham, Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA), City of Savannah
  • Job Creation and Wages
  • Assurances and Guarantees:  Minimizes City's Risk (commits to back SEDA Bond)
  • Services impact to the City
  • Significant New Tax Revenue
  • Discussed the financial analysis of the first and second 10-years

Alderwoman Miller Blakely questioned who was the Parrish Construction Company.  She asked if there will be any community benefit agreements and will there be minority, local (75%?), and DBE participation.

Alderwoman Wilder-Bryan considers this project part of the City's recovery and thanked Mr. Hall and Mr. Wardlaw for their patience.  She is concerned with public transportation and asked if a City-County Agreement will be needed.  Alderwoman Wilder-Bryan asked if a vote could be taken today in order to  move forward with the project.

City Manager Monahan suggested the project be presented at the May 28, 2020 meeting, but consideration of the City's risk and rewards should be evaluated.

Mayor Pro-Tem Dr. Shabazz inquired about the following:  the property is in unincorporated Chatham County, and the future District location if annexed.  She is concerned with the issuance of $38 million in bonds and questioned the financial impact of issuing bonds for the project (the City's risk).  She shared there has been no bond issue in the 5th District and it's time for the District to realize the benefits of a bond issuance.  Mayor Pro-Tem Dr. Shabazz expressed her concerns that, to her knowledge, there has been no neighborhood involvement from the 5th District on this project.  She questioned why the City would give the issuance of the bonds to a private entity and asked Council Members to consider the City's risk.  She asked about the timing for the developer to build out and start payment on the debt service of the bonds.  Mayor Pro-Tem Dr. Shabazz feels this project is not ready for inclusion on an meeting agenda, it needs a little more due diligence.

Alderman Palumbo supports the proposal and the economic impact it will have on the area and the City's revenue stream.  He looks forward to seeing the project on the agenda. 

Alderwoman Lanier advised that she is concerned with the City continuing business as usual and repeating the past.  She feels a public-private-partnership (P3) is a good arrangement.  As the Alderwoman representing District 1, she is looking for equity and balance.  Alderwoman Lanier asked City Manager Monahan, about concerns/discussions from the citizens and if issuing the bonds will effect the City's bond rating.  She is aware that the Council may need to take some risk to benefit the people, but not necessarily recklessness.  The Council should take their time on this project and do their due diligence.  

City Manager Monahan stated the bond rating should not be negatively impacted and would not effect future bond issues.  

Alderman Purtee feels this is an opportunity for the City but it involves some risk, so he's not sold or committed to the project.  It would provide needed jobs with decent pay and educational opportunities for the residents.  He would like to move forward soon on putting the project on the meeting agenda for a decision.

Alderman Leggett has concerns that the City should put safeguards in place for issuing bonds and receiving returns on the investments.  

Alderwoman Miller Blakely asked Mr. Hall who was the previous owner. (Mr. Hall replied, fifty years owned by Rockingham Farms).  

Alderwoman Gibson-Carter feels the project is consistent with behaviors of the past administrations in dealing with the issuance of bonds.  There is too much dealing and negotiations with big business and not enough focus on the core of community needs.  She feels when it comes to bond issuances, Council should take time and establish policies to attach to every bond dollar for every District.  Those bond dollars should speak to community benefits.  The 5th District needs health facilities, fitness centers and grocery stores and this should be the greater benefit to this District.  As it stands, there is no written assurances that what is proposed will be done.  The Council needs to focus on priorities in the midst of the pandemic.

Alderwoman Wilder-Bryan stated she not only represents District 3 but the entire City.  We all know that poverty is married to crime.  She asked the City Manager to find a stream to combat poverty.  The City needs to do all they can to provide jobs to the residents.

Mayor Johnson indicated that he has know about this project for some time and is excited about this project given the opportunity for housing and jobs.  The previous administration deferred this project to the new administration for their consideration.  The property is not in the City, it is in the unincorporated portion of the County.  There is risk involved, but the risk only occurs if there is a default on the bonds.  The City Manager has put mechanisms in place to safeguard the City against those risks.  This Council must decide to approve or disapprove the project, it could be with Mr. Hall and Mr. Wardlaw or with a different developer.  With the new normal we have since the pandemic, we need to find new revenue streams and create a means for citizens to obtain jobs.  Whatever the Council decides, wherever applicable, it will be required to follow DBE participation.  If there are any questions, then address those questions to the City Manager.

City Manager Monahan encouraged Council to email any particular questions concerning the project during the next week.

Alderwoman Miller Blakely reiterated the importance of local and DBE participation.


Mayor Johnson asked Council Members to submit the names for the Savannah Housing Taskforce by tomorrow.

Alderwoman Miller Blakely asked if all the Savannah Housing Taskforce members will be residents of the City of Savannah.  She suggested adding income based-housing as a Savannah Housing Taskforce discussion item.

Mayor Johnson stressed the importance of Housing Taskforce members to have community involvement, they must have expertise in housing or have aspects to contribute from a theoretical or particle point of view (it could be an employee).

Hearing no further business, Mayor Johnson adjourned the meeting at 12:30 p.m.


The audio recording of the Council Meeting can be found by copying and inserting the below link in your url:



Mark Massey, Clerk of Council

Date Minutes Approved: May 28, 2020

Initials:  mm

Agenda Plus