Council Approves Low Income Housing Development
Savannah Morning News
April 27, 2007
“Fellwood Homes redevelopment endorsed while too many unanswered questions faced Paces Foundation project to garner political support”
The Savannah City Council did not vote Thursday to back a low-income development project in Bacon Park.
But it didn’t oppose the project either. As a result, the developer will have a harder time building it.
Last year the Paces Foundation proposed a mostly low-income development in Bacon Park on an old landfill, which needed quick approval from the Council.
Paces did the same thing this year on the same property, this time proposing a new and smaller plan.
Last year the council backed it.
This year the council didn’t.
Council members seemed much less comfortable this time around with the old landfill on the property near the corner of Skidaway Road and Eisenhower Drive. And City Manager Michael Brown said there were still more questions that needed to be answered but not enough time in which to do so.
There was also a wild card this year.
The redevelopment of Fellwood Homes in West Savannah is seeking the same low-income tax credits from the state that Paces must apply for by May 3. West Savannah is the priority, according to Brown.
But the mayor had another perspective. Representatives from Paces should have gone to the community first.
“They didn’t learn” after last year’s neighborhood opposition, Mayor Otis Johnson said. Competition with Fellwood wasn’t an issue for him.
Officially the council voted it was unopposed to the project, which would build 59 mostly low-income senior apartments on the Bacon Park site. Jeff Felser voted against the motion saying he opposed the project altogether.
But since the council did not endorse the project, Paces will lose three points when it applies to the state – if it does apply.
Paces President Mark duMas urged the council to support the project along with Fellwood.
“It’s not a competition, respectfully, between this project and Fellwood,” he told the council.
“The Fellwood project clearly has more points. This is a competition between Savannah and the rest of the communities in the state.”
He said he was frustrated with the short time frame as well, but those were state rules. Requirements for the tax credits aren’t issued until the beginning of the year.
That didn’t sit well with Johnson, who said Paces had a few months from when the tax credits were denied last year to figure out what could go on that property this year. “That would have been the time to start the engagement process with the people who opposed you last time,” he told du Mas.
It’s unclear now whether Paces will apply. du Mas declined to comment after the meeting.
Residents have opposed both Paces projects for a few reasons. Some didn’t want low-income residents in the area.
Some thought a three-story apartment building wasn’t compatible with single-story homes in the area. Up until last week, Paces was meeting with residents and still deciding on a final design.
Johnson said he believes in what Paces is doing because the city needs more affordable housing, particularly at that site.
“Deep down I hope that they go and apply and I hope that they get it because we need affordable housing,” he said.
Enterprise zone approved
The Savannah City Council voted Thursday to create an enterprise zone for the old Fellwood Homes public housing site on West Bay Street.
The zone’s property tax abatements are designed to keep rents low and attract business to a redeveloped “Sustainable Fellwood.”
Tax abatements will last for 10 years, with the first five years owners not paying any city taxes and then gradually moving up to full taxation after 10 years. Taxes will still have to be paid to Chatham County and the Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education.
The Fellwood site will have 13 single-family homes on it. Most of the remainder of the site will be rented out by developer Melaver Inc. Melaver will be required to pass the abatements along to tenants in the form of reduced rent.
Redeveloping Fellwood is seen by city officials as key to the overall redevelopment of the West Savannah neighborhood.