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Development, planning forum hosted by Savannah alderman

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Distrct Two Alderman Bill Durrence looks to form an advisory committee for downtown development (Credit:Robert Catanese){ }

On Thursday, District 2 Alderman Bill Durrence hosted an open forum trying to calm some concerns coming from local residents and business owners.

“I think we have a bigger problem,” said Durrence.

It is a problem that surfaced after the most recent council meeting Jan. 4. It was a Motion to Amend Sec. 8-3030 of the Zoning Ordinance, which read, to Provide Clarity, Correct Errors and Strengthen Design Standards in the Savannah Historic District that seemed to cause the stir in the community.

Speaking to constituents and business leaders, Durrence told the crowd he intended to develop a committee comprised of stakeholders to try and mitigate any confusion with the rapidly expanding development throughout downtown.

“Have conversations if we want to address large scale development. And, make a modification to the existing zoning ordinance, and that’s how we go about addressing change and growth and development in the community particularly downtown,” said Durrence.

By creating a committee of vested interests, Durrence said he hopes to curtail situations like this.

“Before we have 50 people show up at a city council meeting or a planning commission meeting and each one gets one or two minutes to talks about what they want to talk about which is not very productive,” said Durrence.

Stakeholders seemed receptive to the idea having their voices heard.

Karen Guinn is the President of the Downtown Neighborhood Association.

“When there are sweeping changes to the rules of the game for development and building and new business influx, I think it’s important to vet those through the business community through the neighborhood associations and all the stakeholders,” said Guinn.

That sentiment was echoed by Clinton Edminister, the President of the Thomas Square Neighborhood Association.

“We can actually work on figuring out what are we going to do about parking and how tall should this building be and should it be that big,” said Edminister.

Durrence says he is hoping this committee will help open more lines of communication when it comes to the rapidly expanding development downtown

“Maybe by the time we get around to crafting language for an ordinance or an ordinance revision we will have something that most people can agree on even if they don't like all of it so that we don't have this constant contentiousness,” said Durrence.

No word on when the committee could be formed.