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Self-Storage Proposed for Former Landfill Site in Savannah, GA

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Property owners Sherwin and Brian Robin are seeking zoning approval to build a single-story self-storage facility on a former dump site in the Bacon Park neighborhood of Savannah, Ga. The Savannah City Council discussed the proposal for the 9.3-acre parcel at 2201 Beaumont Drive on Oct. 12 following a recommendation from city staff and the Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission. The council decided to postpone its vote until Oct. 26 to allow the city attorney to determine if the city could be held liable if any harmful materials are discovered during the cleanup, according to a source.

“I just want to make sure the city taxpayers aren’t saddled with some cleanup expenses,” said alderman Tony Thomas.

The vacant land was used as an unauthorized landfill for construction debris in the 1970s and 1980s. The Robins, who plan to remove the debris, have asked the council to rezone it to a “commercial-neighborhood” designation to prevent it from being developed for housing, according to Marcus Lotson, development-services planner with the planning commission.

Both the Robins and a resident opposing the project have stated their intention to proceed with legal action depending on the outcome of the vote. Elizabeth Scott, director of the Bacon Park Neighborhood Association, read a notice of intent to sue the city if the rezoning is approved. She expressed concern about potential toxic materials being dug up that could be harmful to residents. “We’ve got to do whatever we can to protect ourselves,” she said.

Scott also reminded the council about the Weatherwood subdivision, which was built on another former Savannah landfill. The site captured national attention in 1991 after dangerous amounts of methane seeped into 32 homes and forced the residents to evacuate. Chatham County taxpayers shelled out nearly $7.5 million in bonds and interest to buy out the residents, according to a source.

Phillip McCorkle, the Robins’ attorney, told the council that multiple environmental studies and engineering reports show removing the construction debris won’t pose a risk to the community. He also noted that self-storage is a “fairly innocuous use” and a denial would amount to a “taking” of his client’s property. “The land as currently zoned has no value,” he added.

Other residents spoke in support of the project, but also wanted “assurances that cleaning it out would not make everybody sick,” said alderman Julian Miller, who represents the district. He suggested the Robins seek an opinion from an outside agency, such as the Environmental Protection Division, to support their consultants’ findings.

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