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June 20 – Council approves beer/wine license on Montgomery St., but with provisions negotiated with Feiler Park residents

Savannah Business Journal Staff Report

June 20, 2017 - Dr. Betty Jones, president of the Feiler Park Neighborhood Assn., spoke at Thursday’s City Council about the resident’s agreement with the owner of a proposed new convenience store owner on Montgomery Street.  It’s a topic that continues an effort by city residents to object to the density of stores and bars selling alcohol close to residential areas.

Avinash Patel for Shiv SEJ Inc. t/a Shiv Convenience Store #4 filed for a  beer and wine package license at 4004 Montgomery Street, located between West 56th Street and West 57th Street in District 5, earlier this year. The applicant plans to operate as a convenience store.

Concerns were immediately filed with the City by the closest neighborhood association. Two meetings were held between the neighborhood association and the applicant where those concerns were discussed.  The item was continued from the Council meetings of May 25, 2017 and June 22, 2017

“Members of the neighborhood association remain strongly opposed to this alcohol license request,” according to the City staff. 

But at Thursday’s meeting, Dr. Jones said that Patel has agreed to not install a car wash, to have a maximum of four gaming machines in the store, and not to be open for 24-hour operation.  Jones stated that he had agreed to close at 10 p.m.

“We want crime lowered in our neighborhood,” Jones said, adding that the association is also asking that the Council pursue an alcohol license moratorium in the area “until the Council can clarify the density of those type of licenses,” across the city.  “We are primarily concerned about Montgomery Street and Bull Street,” she said.  

Mayor Deloach asked City Manager Rob Hernandez for his recommendation regarding a moratorium in that area.

“If the council so directs staff to do that, we would probably put something together like West Bay Street, like a zoning overlay,” responded Rob Martinez.

Alderwoman Dr. Estella Shabazz said that while there has been an ‘agreement’ reached between the association and the petitioner, she intended to vote against the license. “I’m not agreeing on this particular business having a license, and the reason is because the district starts on Victory Dr., and I’m talking about this main corridor on Montgomery Street, and it ends at West DeRenne.  In that area, there are nine convenience stores existing in that short distance; this will make number 10.”  

The Mayor told Jones, “It’s an attempt for the City to make an effort to approve your situation.” But, he added, “There are laws that say, ‘This guy has a legal right to this” … “But, we’re going to work hard to make to make it happen.” 

The City must adhere to private property rights based on current approved usage of the property under current zoning, he added.   

“There are certain activities that breed crime. This is our concern,” responded Dr. Jones.

“It’s a non-binding agreement,” pointed out Alderman John Hall.  “I’m just a little leery of these agreements; they’re just feel good agreements.”  And, it was pointed out that the City was not a party to the agreement. 

But, Alderman Van Johnson said that he expected the owner to adhere to the agreement. 

“And, to all of these other neighborhood associations that have their eyes on this situation, and we have our eyes on this,” added Shabazz.

Alderman Julian Miller moved for approval of the license, second by Bill Durrence.  The vote was 8-1, with Shabazz opposing. 

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