District 5 alderwoman disagrees with city managers changes to plans for fairgrounds

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Savannah city leaders could be back at square one with the old fairgrounds property. After the council approved three proposals to develop the land, the city manager said the city didn’t follow state guidelines when accepting the proposals.

The original three proposals approved by the city council were for new housing with commercial spaces, a sports complex and a movie studio. State guidelines require a certain timeline to be followed but that didn’t happen. The process might have to start all over again.

District 5 Alderwoman Dr. Estella Shabazz is disagreeing with City Manager Michael Brown after he wrote a memo saying the request for proposals received to develop the fairgrounds property weren’t done properly according to state regulations.

“My concern is that with statements like the city manager has in his write up, in reference to legal information, that it puts a really big question mark into the minds and hearts of some city council members that maybe the city is going to get sued,” Shabazz said.

According to Brown’s memo, local governments are required to accept proposals from developers for at least 90 days, but in this case the city only waited 58 days. He’s requesting the city re-issue the request for proposals in March to align with state law. But Alderwoman Shabazz said she’s concerned this will move the project backwards.

“We are in the middle of a pandemic that has taken us further into poverty. We need to use the development of this fairgrounds as an economic engine,” Shabazz said.

In October, the city council voted to move forward and accept the three proposals they received. The city was hoping to narrow the choices down to one sooner than later.

Dr. Shabazz said former City Manager Pat Monahan laid out the plan for the city council and that’s how they voted to move forward.

“The most beneficial way that the mayor and aldermen and alderwoman to move forward with the fairgrounds is with these three proposals that we have already received,” Shabazz said.

Shabazz said on the Zoom call that she did reach out to City Attorney Bates Lovett to see if a mistake was made but he said he knew nothing about what was written in Brown’s memo.

City council members are expected to discuss this more during Thursday’s council workshop starting at 4 p.m.

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