City Talk: “With elections looming, Let’s Revisit the Vision”
by Bill Dawers
Savannah Morning News
August 21, 2007
“Savannah will be a safe, environmentally healthy, and economically thriving community for all of its citizens.”
That’s Mayor Johnson’s concise and admirable vision statement for the city. With elections less than three months away, this seems like a good time to revisit that vision.
During the last three and a half years, we’ve certainly seen many developments in the areas of safety and economic development, but the third component of that vision, the environment, hasn’t been emphasized nearly as much.
Still, there are some notables.
Code enforcement has become more stringent in some respects, which at least in theory has reduced the number of people living in substandard housing. Despite the hardships caused to some individual homeowners, drainage improvements have certainly reduced flooding. City officials are also taking steps toward better hurricane preparedness, and the planting of trees continues throughout the city.
And don’t forget about Sustainable Fellwood, one of the most interesting and ambitious green building projects anywhere in the nation.
The Melaver Inc. Web site describes the plans for the 27-acre site of the former Fellwood Homes on West Bay Street: “a mixed-use development encompassing 220 public/affordable housing units, 75 senior housing units, a dozen first-time homeowner units, market-rate townhomes, 40,000 square feet of retail, medical and technical space, a clubhouse, an organic community garden and significant common green space, based on 200-year-old design elements.”
That’s the type of project that will advance all areas of the mayor’s vision, and I’m not the only observer excited about the project. At least one real estate agent has been actively soliciting listings from homeowners along Millen Street, just west of Fellwood.
Still, given the prominence of the environment in the vision statement, one could expect a more specific agenda from the mayor and the rest of the City Council.
Most notably, Savannah’s elected and appointed officials continue to be way behind the general public will when it comes to recycling. I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said over and over for years and years.
There are some rumblings of encouraging green roofs in some areas to reduce stormwater runoff, but we’ll see if anything is actually implemented. Pervious pavement for some new parking lots also should be considered.
Despite the fact that there are protests across the nation against prospective liquefied natural gas storage facilities, I haven’t heard any concern from any local government official about the continued expansion of the Elba Island facility.
At least three candidates have decided to challenge Otis Johnson in the mayoral race, but it’s unclear at this point whether we’ll see a substantive debate about any of these issues or not.
Let’s hope so, because there’s potentially a lot at stake. The lack of a serious recycling effort, for example, is horrible public relations for a city that hopes to attract new residents and investors from around the world.