SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The possibility of a swimming pool with a capacity of more than 100 people — in the heart of Savannah’s Historic District — has been a controversial topic in one local neighborhood.
Members of the local neighborhood association say the pool on East Perry Street is slated for vacationers at short-term rental properties in Savannah.
Residents in the area say they are not happy with the plans.
Some say that they are even mounting a legal challenge against the construction.
The city has issued a stop work order on the project, but the property owner says he hasn’t yet been informed why.
President of the Downtown Neighborhood Association of Savannah, David McDonald, told me he believes property owner Walter Freeman misled the city about his intentions for the pool when he submitted the plans.
“The top two floors, he said at these hearings, and what the information was, that he was going to live in those as his primary residence and use the pool for his use,” McDonald said.
Freeman is the owner of Southern Belle Vacation Rentals.
Mcdonald said, that after Freeman received approval for the pool, he brought Southern Belle’s properties into the equation.
“After he gets the permits, the reality is, what he’s telling neighbors and advertising: it’s for his rentals,” McDonald said.
Residents are concerned a pool like that would change the character of the neighborhood.
While they do say tourism is important, they tell me this pool would tip the scales too much.
“Savannah is a historic place. It’s got a historic district. It’s charming, it’s beautiful. It’s what brings millions of people here to see it, and to ruin that, is just crazy,” Rick Roney, a resident who lives near the construction site said.
“There has to be a balance because tourism is important. It brings a lot of money into the town. But it has to be managed. It has to be enlightened tourism,” Roney said.
McDonald told me the pool could also pose a safety risk and cause excessive noise.
“They can have parties there all night, and with the to-go cup, you can have someone go next door to the bars, and you’ve got loud partying. You already have those problems downtown at STVRs,” he said.
“It won’t be long before somebody drowns.”
Mayor Van Johnson posted about the stop work order on social media, citing concerns about potential commercial use.
A City of Savannah Spokesperson said the city will continue to investigate the construction. But in the interim, no work is allowed on the property related to the permit.
Freeman says the city has not yet confirmed which ordinance was violated to warrant a stop work order.
Freeman says he believes the city will communicate their reasoning by Monday, but he declined to share further information until he speaks to them.