Zoning Law Will End West Savannah City Neglect, Officials Say

By Nethani Palmani | Mar 03, 2017 02:18 AM EST

A moratorium on new liquor licenses may not be the appropriate solution for West Savannah residents who want to improve their blight-riddled and poverty-stricken neighborhood. What this area need is what the entire community needs - an updated community-wide zoning law that has been in the works for almost 10 years.

There has been a serious concern over the number of businesses licensed by the city to sell beer, wine, and liquor along the West Bay Street corridor. Savannah Now reported that, at this time, there are seven licensed businesses in the one-mile stretch between East Lathrop Avenue and West Lathrop Avenue.

West Savannah Community Organization President Ronald Williams calls this stretch the "alcohol alley." While he and others have urged the city to do something about this trend, especially revolving the Hudson Hill neighborhood, elected officials have long failed to act on enacting more restrictive zoning laws that would have dismissed new businesses that sell alcohol to survive.

The problem will be discussed by the City Council at its meeting on Thursday, and the moratorium on the license is likely to be approved. But Alderman Van Johnson, one of the elect officials, voted against the license to reconsider and said he plans to call for a temporary moratorium on liquor licenses until the city comes up with a long-term solution that emphasizes the zoning law.

Johnson may be right about that. The answer isn't a moratorium on new liquor licenses, but rather enacting the updated zoning law to eliminate the poverty and blight that makes West Savannah so unattractive to business investors.

"It's important that our laws strengthen neighborhoods and encourage business in the most appropriate place," Johnson said. Such long-term plan that includes the zoning law would help guide future development in the city while protecting property rights and minimizing conflicts between businesses and neighborhood groups, according to Savannah Metropolitan Planning Community.

The problem of "alcohol alley" Williams describe is an epitome of government neglect that dates years ago. It will only recede when elected officials who represent the area start establishing the zoning law, and understand their responsibilities.

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