Tybee Island city leaders hold emergency city council meeting


TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) – City leaders on Tybee Island held an emergency city council meeting Monday adding new ordinances to their emergency declaration. The Tybee Island City Council is coming together as one to stop the spread of the coronavirus on the island while trying to define and create one clear emergency declaration ordinance.

“Tourists coming here to enjoy is not an essential function right now. We need to keep visitors away,” City Council Member, Nancy DeVetter said.

After the first confirmed case on the island and another in Unincorporated Chatham County, the council is concerned about the safety of their residents. Monday, the council voted to have residents shelter at home until April 30 to be consistent with what President Donald Trump has ordered.

“We’re trying to strongly encourage people to stay at home,” City Council Member, John Branigin said.

An emergency declaration was issued more than a week ago closing Tybee beaches and banning public consumption of alcohol. Days later the city closed all non-essential businesses.

One of the main topics discussed was short term vacation rentals (STVR). Vacation rental owners penned a letter to the council Monday.

“Vacation rental companies have made the decision to not accept any additional short term vacation rentals arrivals beginning today through April 30,” Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions said.

While no new reservations will be allowed, STVR’s will continue to ask those who are from out of town to follow any mandates in place.

“Some of these people coming down they probably own some of these rental houses and they’re probably staying in these houses themselves but the more people you let come for short term rentals is going to be a problem because they are probably bringing the virus with them,” City Council Member, Barry Brown said.

City officials have also given City Manager Shawn Gillen the authority to act on a COVID-19 emergency when it seems necessary without the city council meeting. He’s been given a limit of $30,000 to spend on emergency to meet the demands of the city until the end of the ordinance. While he has been given this authority, Gillen has agreed to be transparent and inform the city council ahead of making any purchases in case of an emergency.

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