June 25, 2020 – The Savannah City Council met Thursday afternoon in a workshop to learn the process by which the City of Savannah can sell off property, and the methods of selling public land that are allowed under Georgia laws.  Council members are facing a major decision ahead regarding the disposition of the Fairgrounds property which the city purchased for more than $2 million in 2017. 

The first method of selling off public land is to the highest bidder, the method used by Chatham County, according to Acting City Manager Pat Monahan, who used to be Asst. County Manager for the county.

The second method is issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) with sealed bids, where a purchasing committee looks at the “highest and best use” of a piece of property, based on what was outlined in the RFP, which is the method that the City Council will be using for the disposal of the Fairgrounds property on the city’s Westside, Monahan explained. 

There are both sales of parcels and the sale of rights of way, such as roads, canals and drainage easements.

The city’s real estate is legally owned in the name of the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Savannah; their name is on the deed, not a city department. 

By law, sales are awarded to the highest responsive bidder OR the sale gets cancelled, through two available sale methods, Auction or Sealed bid (Savannah typically uses sealed bid method), when they used the bid method versus issuing an RFP. 

On all sales, the City must provide public notice of a proposed sale, and the City posts all property for sale on its Purchasing Dept. portal as well as using other venues.  A broker can be used to assist in marketing the sale, under Georgia law. 

The city's Real Estate Dept. drafts specifications for the RFP which are then submitted to the Purchasing Dept. for review. Prime properties are typically advertised for 60 to 75 days, explained Frank Garlitz, Director of Purchasing.

RFP proposals received by the stated deadline are sent to an evaluation committee to review and score on the provided scoring matrix for the RFP, without seeing the bid price submitted.  Their scoring is then sent to the Purchasing Dept.  The pricing portion of the bid is then opened, and points for pricing are added to the matrix along with the “Savannah First” local points, if applicable.

Vendors/bidders are then ranked by highest total score, with a recommendation for award presented to the City Council for approval.

Eric Chin, Real Estate Manager for the City of Savannah, explained how the RFP specs are developed, such as the use explaining that the city would consider a 'Payment in Lieu of Taxes' provision, or that hotels cannot be developed on a property to be sold.  

The City of Savannah has a contract with Colliers, a real estate brokerage firm, who shows the property “who speaks only about information already publicly discussed,” he said. The property is shown concurrent with the RFP process taking place.

An RFP to seek proposals by developers for the Fairgrounds property has not yet been released.  While a group of investors has come forward with a proposal to build a soundstage on the Fairgrounds, the Council in May agreed to be open to any proposal by a developer for use of the property - a broader approach. 

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