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Savannah Riverkeeper asks commission for 50-year lease on riverfront property

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 7:05 PM
Last updated Thursday, May 16, 2013 1:52 AM
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Savannah Riverkeeper wants a 50-year lease on a city riverfront property that it has long eyed to use for recreational, educational and office space.

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Last fall, volunteers Jennifer Crumrine (from left), Marian Loyd, Laura Bradford and Jack Pressly helped clean up a vacant building on Prep Phillips Drive on the river. Savannah Riverkeeper is seeking a 50-year lease on the property.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/FILE
Last fall, volunteers Jennifer Crumrine (from left), Marian Loyd, Laura Bradford and Jack Pressly helped clean up a vacant building on Prep Phillips Drive on the river. Savannah Riverkeeper is seeking a 50-year lease on the property.

Tonya Bonitatibus, the director of the advocacy group, made the lease proposal at Monday’s Augusta Commission finance committee meeting, at which some city leaders questioned whether the plan complements the Augusta Tomorrow master plan.

“It’s time to put a big emphasis on action,” Bonitatibus said.

The nonprofit group has spent years cleaning the Prep Phillips Drive site, a former car junkyard, she said.

Twelve acres of the 14-acre parcel were littered with car parts, she said. There is a steel building once used for the city’s traffic and engineering field office.

Last fall, Savannah River­keeper placed a bid on the property after the city listed it as surplus for sale. The $1,000 bid was not accepted.

Bonitatibus asked for a lease at $1 a year for 50 years, similar to other nonprofit leases from the city. The commission charged the group to meet with Augusta Tomorrow before bringing the proposal back to committee at the end of the month.

Savannah Riverkeeper wants to transform the building into space for a classroom and offices and to set up an outdoor consignment shop for canoes and kayaks.

A fishing pier, kayak launch points, a disc golf course and even a beach are other potential uses, Bonitatibus said.

If the lease is approved, the riverkeeper would launch a $2 million capital campaign for improvements at the site. Cleanup also could be funded with federal grants, she said.

Commissioner Bill Fennoy said he supports the lease deal if the advocacy group works with Augusta Tomorrow.

He’d like to see a dump site transformed into recreational space.

“I don’t think we’ll have any problem getting this issue through the commission,” Fennoy said.

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Riverman1 05/16/13 - 04:08 am
Sounds like a great idea. A

Sounds like a great idea. A group maintaining a recreation area for free. It appears they've already done much work there.

Bodhisattva 05/16/13 - 05:38 am
If they don't accept it, put

If they don't accept it, put all of the car parts back.

Dixieman 05/16/13 - 04:28 pm
NO, NO, NO!!

This is an ultra left-wing job-killing litigation factory in disguise. Read up on how they spend their money. If you support them, a lot of your dues and contributions go to a radical environmental "clinic" at Emory Law School which sues to shut businesses down and other similar efforts. Examples: Lawsuits against City of Savannah Harbor improvement, Plant Vogtle expansion, residential construction, etc.
Watermelon organizations (green on the outside, red on the inside) have NO BUSINESS getting sweetheart deals from Augusta-Richmond County which costs all taxpayers. All they are doing is undercutting our local economy. I object to my taxes being used to subsidize these radical job-killers. If they want this property, charge them a market rent and let them raise the funds to pay it, but don't use my tax dollars to give them a below market rent.
And for some reason the Chronicle never investigates these people or has anything critical to say about them -- just reprints their press releases. I'd like to see some journalism!

KSL 05/16/13 - 09:24 pm

Exactly. The taxpayers have no idea how much the riverkeepers cost them across the State of Georgia, in such projects as public school construction. Like many organizations, their goals sound great on the surface. Most people don't bother to look beneath the surface.

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