Savannah City Council postpones vote on ‘Special Use Permit’ for transitional housing

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – On Thursday, Savannah City Council were scheduled to vote to approve a Special Use Permit. The permit would allow the Housing Authority of Savannah to use a parcel of land in West Savannah for transitional or emergency shelters for people who are homeless.

According to District 1 Alderwoman Bernetta Lanier, the petitioner with the Housing Authority of Savannah asked that the agenda item be postponed until March 11.

Currently, it is zoned for community business, according to an agenda item.

Approval of the permit would pave the way for the Salvation Army to buy the land and use it to build transitional housing — or 56 family-friendly apartments — there. The lot is located on Augusta Avenue.

Standing outside City Hall on Tuesday, District 1 Alderwoman Bernetta Lanier — the woman who represents the area — chanted ‘let us breathe, let us grow, let us live, let us prosper’ to protest the permit.

She held a press conference earlier in Council Chambers.

“I am not that leader to take people who have been so downtrodden to think that a homeless shelter in the heart and center of the community is the best and smartest use in what we need,” she said.

The fourth-generation West Savannah resident says the land is also historically significant. She says it is close to where 429 slaves were sold in one weekend, a time now referred to as the Weeping Time.

The Salvation Army says the organization has always considered that fact in its adjustments and proposals.

“The idea of using such a horrible event as a reason not to be able to help out people, it kind of of confounds me,” said Major Eagan with the Salvation Army. “So I hope we can work together, so we can celebrate that first thing.”

Eagan says there are significant issues that would prevent the organization from expanding at its existing sites on Montgomery Avenue and Bee Road.

If the permit does not pass, Mayor Van Johnson said Tuesday that he expects the Housing Authority to go through with its original pan to build low to moderate-income housing on the lot.

Alderman Lanier suggested at her press conference that the Salvation Army look at a location on Dooley Avenue. Eagan says he will propose the idea to an advisory board in Atlanta, but does not believe the location is the right fit.

He says Dooley Avenue’s lot presents significant and expensive developmental challenges. Augusta Avenue is the best location, according to him.

City Council will vote on the matter at its regular meeting on Thursday. The vote was originally scheduled for late last year.

“If we allow the special use permit and continue business as usual…it will be the Weeping time all over again,” said Lanier.

News 3 will have updates on March 11 with the city council’s decision.

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