As you read this, you are probably sitting at work causally surfing the Internet at your desk. Imagine that a city official enters the office and tells your boss that the business’s property is going to become the city’s property. The business will have to close. You and the other employees will have to find new jobs. The local, regular customers will have to find a new business to buy their merchandise. Although your boss quickly refuses to sell, you soon overhear that the government will take the property through eminent domain no matter what.
This very incident occurred with my family’s small, successful, and employing business – along with give or take 108 other properties – one day when city planners, neighborhood organizers, and elected officials decided the only way to beautify West Bay Street was to destroy it and start over. Once the vision of obliteration promised revitalization in 2004, the City of Savannah, Chatham County Commission and the Georgia Department of Transportation (GaDOT) have knocked around my family and the other property owners. Since 2004, this long whispered battle has been mentally and emotionally draining for me, my family, and the other property owners due to threats of eminent domain, along with silence from officials they elected, and feelings of helpless despair.
These officials openly acted as if the demolition of the West Bay Street properties was set in stone, even as the property owners, small businesses, and churches united together to fight for their land rights and businesses. These politicians and community leaders looked to promote their self-interests and greedily spend economic stimulus funds all in the name of progress, which in this case is a four-lane roadway with an unreasonably large 70 foot wide, oak lined, median. All along anyone which supports Small Businesses for Fair and Just Land Rights: West Bay Street Corridor, struggle with being told they are hindering progress and only prolonging the inevitable.
My family business, along with roughly 50 other businesses we have grown to love, will no longer exist, either by total demolition or total loss of property access, forcing them out or to close. The sad part is 20 businesses will be forced to close in order to make room for the 20 to 70 foot wide median. So if you can visualize where a few of the businesses now exist, such as, Mill Direct Carpets, Michael and Brown Funeral Home, Marvel Cleaners, Nancy’s Seafood, Action Gasket, Famous O’s Chicken, Young’s Barber Shop and Happy China Chinese Food and Takeout is located , that will be the location of the new, beautiful median.
Choosing a median over these long standing businesses that have spent an average of 33 years making commerce and providing employment along West Bay Street only shows how disenfranchised the government has become in regards to the will of the people. Savannah is experiencing its highest unemployment rate, but our elected and tax paid officials are making matters worse, ignoring their constituents, further killing the American Dream, and entrepreneurial spirit by willing destroying the backbone of the American economy for beautification.
People who think I am over exaggerating or have never felt this sort of harsh, abusive treatment at the hands of the government should realize that under Georgia law similar problems can legally happen to you. As citizens of both the community and the United States, we should all scrap our comfortable feelings of entitlement and fight for the protection of personal and property rights. We must be willing to critically think and realize that small businesses pay the salaries of these officials, politicians, planners, and community leaders and fund these government projects. We must be willing to fight this type of hypocrisy and vote out these tax paid officials that promote job creation at the same time they promote progress in the name of a large 70 foot wide, oak lined, median. Hopes, dreams, and 81 local businesses gone – for what a median? It is a sham!