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Riverwalk, shopping carts debated by City Council
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Savannah City Council today approved a $14 million bond issue to extend the riverwalk and build a public elevator on West River Street, in conjunction with the Plant Riverside private sector project there.

City Attorney Brooks Stillwell said the investment is a "win/win for the public" because increased property taxes will more than pay back the taxpayers.

Alderwoman Estella Shabazz was the lone no vote, questioning why public money was underwriting the project. There was a brief debate as Mayor Eddie DeLoach reminded her that she supported the idea when first proposed prior to DeLoach's election.

Alderman Tony Thomas, in supporting the project, said that the over $300 million in private infrastructure investment is worth the City's investment of $14 million.

A 217-unit affordable housing development on the Southside already approved by the MPC was held up in Council by concerns from Shabazz and Thomas, who demanded to see renderings of the development.

When the developer said having to wait any more would "kill the project" due to lapsing of credits for low-income housing, Shabazz told him, "We're the controlling body here."

The vote on a long-awaited Shopping Cart ordinance, in some form of discussion for five years, was continued another two weeks to give grocery chain representatives time to meet some more with City staff.

The proposed ordinance puts the burden on businesses to locate and recover the numerous shopping carts used by customers and then left in neighborhoods around town.

Alderman John Hall said, "This has been a problem in neighborhoods for a long time, in some areas more than others. Neighborhood groups have asked us repeatedly to do something about all the shopping carts scattered over the landscape."

Alderman Van Johnson said poverty is the issue. "People don't take shopping carts to joy ride. They have no other way to get groceries from Point A to Point B... we talk about food deserts and transportation.... some people are not able to do the things that we're able to do. They need groceries too."

A representative of the grocers' association said taking the carts off their property is theft. "I don't know that that's the grocer's challenge to get the customers home. I'm not sure how that's going to work."

To which Hall replied, "We want you to work with us. Why can't this be incorporated into your loss prevention programs?... Why can't someone monitor what goes out of the front door? This is an easy fix for you, but you're making it hard."

In supporting a two-week delay to come up with a better solution, Mayor DeLoach told the grocers' rep: "We are truly looking for answers. In 2013 they were talking about this. Here it is 2018... Y'all have to find a solution within two weeks. If you don't, we will place a solution on you."