Criminal Defense Attorney in Vernonburg, GA.

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If you are accused of a crime, the only thing standing between your freedom and a verdict of “guilty” is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Vernonburg, GA.

Those who have been arrested before know that life in the legal system is no laughing matter. Aside from the imminent ramifications of fines and jail time, any goals you have of bettering yourself and advancing your life could be compromised. Without a trusted attorney by your side, you could face a lifetime of embarrassment and poor employment prospects due to a tarnished criminal record.

The good news? Dennis O’Brien and his team of experienced lawyers in Vernonburg are ready to clear your name. By retaining the help of a criminal defense attorney early in the legal process, you have a much better chance of securing your freedom and living a life as a productive member of society.

At O’Brien Law Firm PC, our practice was founded to fight for the rights of individuals accused of or charged with a crime. Our team of legal experts is well-equipped to take even the most difficult, contentious cases. From violent felonies to DUI, there is nothing we haven’t seen and handled. As a former law enforcement officer, founding attorney Dennis O’Brien knows exactly how much a person can lose if convicted. That’s why we work tirelessly to secure a verdict that is favorable for our clients.

Regardless of how serious or minor your case may be, know that we will fight fearlessly on your behalf. You deserve zealous representation – when you hire O’Brien Law Firm PC, you will receive nothing less.

Service Areas

The O’Brien Law Firm PC Difference

Many of our clients are surprised to discover that founding lawyer Dennis O’Brien was a police officer prior to his criminal defense career. As a former Field Training Officer for the Memphis Police Department, he has over two decades of knowledge and experience in the criminal justice system. Dennis truly understands the nuance and complexities involved in a criminal defense case. This rare experience gives Dennis a clear edge in any criminal defense case and gives clients priceless peace of mind when they need it the most. Unlike some criminal defense attorneys in Vernonburg, Dennis O’Brien and his team believe that every client deserves effective, empathetic legal assistance. While some Vernonburg criminal defense firms will take weekends off or pass along cases to paralegals, Dennis personally reviews each of his cases. There is no case too small or big for O’Brien Law Firm PC. When you hire our firm, you can rest easy knowing that we will be by your side when the going gets tough.

The OBrien Law Firm PC Difference
Here are just a few reasons why O’Brien Law Firm PC is Vernonburg’s top choice in criminal defense:
  • Vigorous Representation
  • Fierce Dedication to Clients
  • Unmatched Experience
  • Face-to-Face Counsel
  • Prompt Response to Inquiries and Questions
  • Commitment to Defending Your Rights
  • Thorough, Effective Research and Investigation
  • Contact Us or Call: 912.704.5150
Our firm has represented hundreds of criminal defense clients
Our firm has represented hundreds of criminal defense clients in Vernonburg and is highly qualified to take your case. Some of our specialties include:

Drug Cases in Vernonburg, GA

When you are charged with a drug crime in Vernonburg, it can change your life forever. Georgia imposes very strict punishments for drug offenses. The truth is, it’s hard to get your life back on track with a drug charge on your record. Your freedom and way of life could be in the hands of your criminal defense attorney. As such, you need a competent lawyer with years of experience handling drug cases. Leaving your fate in the hands of an incompetent attorney could have long-lasting effects on your family and may result in a conviction.


Consequences for drug crimes in Vernonburg often include:

  • Jail
  • Prison
  • Heavy fines
  • Community service
  • Court-ordered drug and alcohol counseling
  • Probation or parole
  • Permanent criminal record

While the consequences for a drug crime in Georgia are serious, there’s reason to be hopeful: O’Brien Law Firm PC is here to fight for you. Remember – being charged with a drug crime is NOT the same thing as being convicted.

Our stellar team has represented many clients facing numerous drug-related charges. While each situation varies, one constant remains the same for clients facing drug charges: a fear of what lies ahead. At O’Brien Law Firm PC our job is to help you overcome the fear of the unknown. We do so by ensuring you understand your charges, the possible outcomes associated with those charges, and the options you need to consider from a criminal defense standpoint.

With more than a decade of experience as Vernonburg drug crime attorneys, we have the experience and resources to defend you in court no matter what your charges may be, including:

  • Marijuana
  • Crack
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Methamphetamine
  • Ecstasy

No matter what charge you are facing, our team has the experience and resources to build a comprehensive defense strategy for your drug case in Vernonburg, GA. Without a criminal defense attorney acting as your advocate, you could be facing very harsh penalties. Here are a few punishments you could be facing for drug crimes in Vernonburg:

  • Schedule I or Schedule II Drug Possession
    Schedule I or Schedule II Drug Possession:

    Having less than a gram (or one milliliter for liquids) of this type of drug results in a prison term of one to three years. Having four grams or milliliter carries a term of one to eight years.

  • Schedule III, IV, or V Drug Possession
    Schedule III, IV, or V Drug Possession:

    Any substance on this list is punishable by a prison sentence of one to three years.

  • Non-Narcotic Schedule II Drug Possession
    Non-Narcotic Schedule II Drug Possession:

    If you have less than two grams or milliliters of this substance, punishments can be between one year and three years. Having up to four grams or milliliters results in a prison sentence of one to eight years.

  • Possession of Marijuana
    Possession of Marijuana:

    Those who are in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana are subject to a jail sentence of up to 12 months. Fines may be no more than $1,000. Possession of more than an ounce of marijuana can result in a prison term of one to 10 years.

To avoid these life-changing punishments, you must take action now. Contact O’Brien Law Firm today for a consultation about your case.

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Violent Crime Cases

Violent Crime Cases in Vernonburg, GA

Violent crime offenses in Vernonburg typically involve some form of bodily harm to another individual, actions committed against an individual’s will, or threatening someone with bodily harm. Aggravated violent offenses are more severe charges and often occur when a violent crime is made more serious due to circumstances like deadly weapons.

Much like serious drug cases, violent crimes create an added layer of negativity that follows the accused for the rest of their life. In these cases, even an accusation is enough to cause irreparable damage to a person’s reputation. Those convicted of a violent crime face severe penalties that can include years in a correctional facility.

Common crimes of this nature include but are not limited to:
  • Murder
  • Assault with the intent to murder
  • Vehicular homicide
  • Domestic violence
  • Assault
  • Battery
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Carjacking

When you are accused of any of the above crimes, your freedom hangs in the balance. The outcome of your case will determine whether you leave the courtroom with your freedom intact or stripped away to serve time behind bars. Because the punishments for violent crimes are so extreme, you should be seeking legal counsel from a criminal defense attorney in Vernonburg, GA, as soon as possible. As a former police officer with a long record of positive verdicts in violent crime cases, Dennis O’Brien is well equipped to represent you in court.

Having a criminal defense lawyer by your side is the best way to avoid the serious punishments associated with violent crimes. These punishments usually result in prison time if convicted and include:
Forced rape: 20 years
Armed robbery: Up to 20 years
Simple assault: Up to 12 months
Aggravated assault: 10 to 20 years
Aggravated battery: Up to 20 years
Involuntary manslaughter: One to 20 years
Vehicular homicide Up to 15 years
Murder: Life in prison or the death sentence
Zealous Representation Without Judgement

As a former police officer, Dennis O’Brien has seen the toll it takes on a person when charged with a crime. His time in law enforcement allows him to empathize with his clients who desperately need competent representation. Despite being innocent until proven guilty, accusations are scary, and conviction could be a reality. That is why you must work with a trustworthy criminal defense lawyer in Vernonburg, GA who will work tirelessly to clear your name.

Clients choose O’Brien Law Firm because we believe in open communication, honesty, and hard work. It is not our job to act as judges for those who have been accused of crimes. Rather, our goal is to find the best defense that allows us to protect our clients’ rights and freedoms.

DUI Cases in Vernonburg, GA

Driving under the influence (DUI) is one of the most common crimes committed in Georgia. Punishments for such a crime can be severe, and for understandable reasons – when a person operates a vehicle while they are intoxicated, they’re putting their life and the lives of others at risk.

While DUI is a serious crime that completely upend the accused’s life, the earnest desire to end drunk driving can make police officers too eager to catch a person who they believe is under the influence.

DUI Cases

The city of Vernonburg, Georgia, has implemented severe punishments for DUI, even for first-time offenders. Individuals charged with DUI in Vernonburg could face:

  • Very expensive fines and fees
  • Loss of license
  • Incarceration

Fortunately, if you or someone you love has been charged with DUI, there is hope. This is particularly true when the accused is administered a breath or blood test for DUI. In fact, cases that involve a breath and/or blood test are beaten daily. When you hire O’Brien Law Firm PC, we will dive deep into your DUI case in Vernonburg and examine every angle possible for your case to be dismissed. Here are just a few questions our team will investigate:

  • Was the stop legal? If not, your case could be dismissed
  • Is there enough evidence or probable cause to arrest you? If not, Dennis O’Brien will file a pre-trial motion and will fight hard to have your case dismissed before trial.
  • Did the police read you your implied consent rights? If not, your case could be thrown out. Failure to read implied consent rights to the accused is one of the most common police errors.
  • Were your blood testing records and breathalyzer results maintained? Breath testing comes with inherent weaknesses that can create doubt in a juror’s mind.

There are numerous ways to beat a DUI case in Georgia, from unreliable field sobriety tests to inaccurate state-administered breath tests. As a veteran criminal defense lawyer in Vernonburg, GA, Dennis O’Brien has the knowledge and experience to expose the state’s mistakes and fight for your rights. When you hire O’Brien Law Firm PC your chances of dismissal are greatly increased. When your case is dismissed, you can continue living life without the burden of a criminal record.

If you or someone you love is accused of a crime in Vernonburg, GA, don’t leave fate up to the prosecution. Take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family before it’s too late.

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Latest News in Vernonburg

Georgia mourns the loss of Savannah state Rep. Mickey Stephens, 77

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Georgia state and local leaders are sending their condolences after the death of Savannah state Rep. Edward “Mickey” Stephens (D-GA 165). District 165 stretches from downtown Savannah, across East Savannah, Chatham County and Thunderbolt to Vernonburg.Stephens was “a native of Savannah, Georgia,” according to his Georgia House of Representatives ...

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Georgia state and local leaders are sending their condolences after the death of Savannah state Rep. Edward “Mickey” Stephens (D-GA 165). District 165 stretches from downtown Savannah, across East Savannah, Chatham County and Thunderbolt to Vernonburg.

Stephens was “a native of Savannah, Georgia,” according to his Georgia House of Representatives biography. He was an alumni of Savannah State College and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Arts Education in 1971. He received a Master of Education degree from Cambridge College in Boston.

Stephens worked as a technology instructor at Savannah High School and Shuman Middle School and as the Instructor of Industrial Arts Education at John W. Hubert Middle School.

Stephens was first elected to the Georgia House of Representatives for one term in 2002-2003. He was reelected in 2009 and served on the Health & Human Services, Insurance, Legislative & Congressional Reapportionment, Regulated Industries and Ways & Means committees. He also previously served on the Savannah-Chatham County Board of Public Education and the Savannah Zoning Board of Appeals.

Stephens was married to his wife Gloria for 47 years. They had two children, Edward Jr. and Karlis, and three grandchildren, Kyrin, Lauren and Raven.

Georgia House of Representatives Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) released the following statement Saturday night:

“The passing of Mickey Stephens takes from us one of Georgia’s most solid leaders. A man of quiet strength, Mickey was a pillar in the Georgia House and he was my dear friend. Mickey’s utmost priority was the well-being of his constituents and no one fought harder for their community. Our prayers are with Gloria and his family during this time.”

Georgia State Rep. Carl Gilliard (D-Garden City) released the following statement Sunday afternoon:

“This this morning we mourn the loss of a giant legislator. The Honorable Representative Mickey Stephens welcomed me into the Georgia House of Representatives and would hold my feet to the fire. He was an outspoken champion in meetings when no one would say what they felt. He wouldn’t talk about you, he would say as a man whatever he thought to your face. He often reminded to stay focused and “Trust no one.”

“He once said to me, “When I run for re-election I already have my theme. “Thanks Mickey!” The last time I saw him earlier this year in the Georgia House of Representative. I leaned over to him with great emotion and echoed what he said would be his campaign theme,

“Thanks Mickey!”

Savannah State University President Kimberly Ballard-Washington released the following statement Sunday night:

“The Savannah State University family is saddened by the passing of Georgia House Representative and Savannah State University alumnus Mickey Stephens (’71). Although Representative Stephens had been ill recently, he remained a strong advocate, ensuring the university’s needs were addressed by the general assembly. He was a friend and mentor, ably guiding me through the legislative process.

“We have lost a great man who worked tirelessly for his constituents and his community. Serving faithfully for over a decade, Representative Stephens embodied Savannah State University’s motto, “Lux et Veritas” (Light and Truth). His passing leaves a void in our hearts and of all who knew him. We extend our deepest sympathy to his family.”

Other leaders posted statements on Facebook and Twitter. You can read their full statements below:

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson:

Savannah District Two Alderman Detric Leggett:

SCCPSS Superintendent Dr. Ann Levett:

Georgia State Rep. Derek Mallow (D-GA 163)

Georgia State Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-GA 166)

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp:

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Rep. Mickey Stephens. Mickey was a dedicated public servant and a strong advocate for the Savannah community. The Kemp family extends our sincere condolences to his family, friends, and the people of District 165.

— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) August 15, 2021

Stacey Abrams, Founder of Fair Fight:

Rep. Stephens will be deeply missed by those he served and those who served with him. My condolences to his wife, children and family as they grieve his homegoing.

— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) August 15, 2021

Democratic Party of Georgia:

This is a developing story. WTOC will provide updates as they become available.

Copyright 2021 WTOC. All rights reserved.

How Sea Level Rise Threatens Our History

Fort Pulaski is a brick hulk. The fort, surrounded by a moat on an island near the mouth of the Savannah River, was built before the Civil War. It was seized and used by the Confederate Army until federal forces took it back in 1862.Now, it’s a national monument.“I call these forts our American castles,” said Joel Cadoff, chief of interpretation at Fort Pulaski National Monument. “When you approach the fort’s walls, they’re just magnificent.”As we walk around the outside of the f...

Fort Pulaski is a brick hulk. The fort, surrounded by a moat on an island near the mouth of the Savannah River, was built before the Civil War. It was seized and used by the Confederate Army until federal forces took it back in 1862.

Now, it’s a national monument.

“I call these forts our American castles,” said Joel Cadoff, chief of interpretation at Fort Pulaski National Monument. “When you approach the fort’s walls, they’re just magnificent.”

As we walk around the outside of the fort, the 30-foot walls tower over us, intimidating. But we come around a corner and see gashes in those walls, where cannon balls hit.

When Pulaski was built, in the 1840s, it was supposed to be invincible.

“This fort was state-of-the-art at one point,” he said. “Now, by the 1860s, certainly weaponry was going to catch up to it.”

Now, 150 years later, nature is catching up to Fort Pulaski.

Tides are inching higher and higher. The sea level has been rising at a rate of about a foot a century at Fort Pulaski, and it may speed up.

Sea level rise threatens not just the fort, but historic and cultural sites up and down the Atlantic Coast. Native American history, the places where slaves lived and worked, historic neighborhoods, cemeteries and sites of battles are all at risk.

Fort Pulaski has had a rough couple years.

There was Hurricane Matthew in 2016, which flooded the fort. A tornado hit the visitors’ center in May 2017, closing it for months. Then, in September of 2017, there was Hurricane Irma, and another flood in the fort. Top it all off with a few days of snow and ice in January 2018, and Cadoff said, adding it all up, Fort Pulaski’s been closed more than three months in the past couple years.

Fort Pulaski is still pulling itself back together, even as the threat from sea level rise looms.

“It’s happening, and, you know, I’m not sure that we’re, in the long view of time, we’re not going to be able to stop that,” Cadoff said.

If water levels come up by another 3 feet by 2100, which is on the conservative end of current projections, most of Cockspur Island, where Fort Pulaski is, would be underwater. Cadoff said they’re trying to prepare, thinking about ways to protect the fort from sea level rise.

“It’s a real hard juggling act because we were so affected by these storms and because we’re still trying to get onto our feet and just functioning as a regular park,” he said. “To have the added burden of preparing for that future? It’s hard.”

A report from the National Park Service from earlier this year says that about a quarter of its parks are on coasts. It’s not just the national parks at risk in the Southeast, though. Sea level rise threatens thousands of years of human history on the coast.

I meet Rick Kanaski, regional archaeologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Southeast, on the other side of the Savannah River, at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina.

The refuge used to be a plantation. Kanaski drives along dikes between old rice fields, which, now filled with water, are a haven for migrating birds. But this was once a place where slaves worked under horrible conditions – hot, buggy, rife with disease.

“This was a hard place,” Kanaski says.

And it’s at risk. We see a well – the water supply for the slaves. In the distance, we see islands where the plantation and the slave quarters were.

Kanaski says this area is affected not just by sea level rise, but also by the Savannah Harbor deepening, which sucks more salt water farther upstream. He’s concerned not just about structures that are threatened by flooding and erosion, but about the land around them, which Kanaski says is, itself, part of the history here.

“Things like this may eventually just disappear along the coastline,” he says.

Washing Away History



Sea level rise threatens historic sites on Georgia’s coast. A 3-foot sea level rise likely wouldn’t lead to total inundation for most sites included here but would put them at increased risk to storm surge and flooding, making them less accessible to the public.

Farther up the coast on Pinckney Island, near Hilton Head, we bushwhack through dense coastal woods until we come to the shoreline, where the land gives way to mud.

Here we see evidence of pre-European history: A long mound of oyster shells left by Native Americans. Shell middens like this one are important to archaeologists because they show both where — and how — people lived.

This one, Kanaski said, dates to around 1500 B.C.

“You can see the large roots that are being exposed,” he says.

It’s eroding.

“They’re exposed because the soil and part of the midden that held them in place is all now down there,” he says, gesturing to the mud.

The water level is just creeping up a bit every year, but it’s relentless. Waves crash higher; storms push the ocean up farther; wake from boats cuts into the banks more. The land gives way. The trees that hold the soil together die. The 3,000-year-old Native American shell midden wears away.

“Things like this is what’s going to be really impacted by sea level rise,” Kanaski says.

There’s another thing Kanaski wants to show me while we’re on Pinckney Island, but it takes a while to find it. There are tons of trees down here, knocked over by the hurricanes, and the area is a wild tangle of branches and leaves and undergrowth.

We crash around in the still heat, and Kanaski is on the verge of giving up when he realizes we’re right next to what he was trying to find: a small cemetery.

There are a handful of veterans’ markers at the graves of people who served in the U.S. Colored Infantry in the Civil War. There’s no sign or church, or fence around the graves; they’re nearly invisible in the woods. They’re not forgotten, though. Someone has recently put small American flags by the headstones of the African-American Union soldiers.

Kanaski crouches down to read one. It’s the veteran’s marker for Lean Brown, Company C, 21st US Colored Infantry.

In the long run, Kanaski says, this small cemetery is at risk of being sucked out to sea, too.

The coastal barrier islands are always shifting. That’s just part of what they do: they rise and fall, their dunes move, they adjust to the tides.

And the sea level has gone up and down in the past.

That’s something that University of Georgia professor Victor Thompson is interested in. He studies archaeology on Georgia’s Ossabaw Island, especially how Native Americans responded to rising sea levels in the past.

The places he studies there are eroding, too. It’s for a mix of reasons: surges from storms, the wake from boats, and also sea level rise.

“On a good high tide and if we’ve had a lot of boat traffic at the next low tide, you can basically walk the beach, and the artifacts are strewn everywhere,” he said.

He said when he thinks about his work, sorry for the pun, but he’s just trying to keep his head above water.

“I’m one person; that’s just one site,” he said. “So multiply this over the entire Georgia coastline with thousands of archaeological sites and you could just sort of envision the magnitude of what’s occurring in terms of erosion and site loss.”

It’s not just sites from humanity’s past that are at risk.

Emory geologist Anthony Martin is losing places he studies on the Georgia coast, too, like a Pleistocene site on St. Catherines Island, where he researches the plants and insects that lived there 20,000 years ago, a time when mammoths and giant sloths roamed Georgia.

That site is eroding, too. There are some places he’s studied there, he said, that are now underwater.

“It is a loss to science,” Martin said.

It’s also just part of the deal for people who study barrier islands, since they shift and erode all the time. But now, with sea level rise, he said, the research feels more pressing.

“Scientists like me, we were studying our respective fields, and we were tinkering along with those, and we were doing them out of an intellectual interest,” he said. “We’re now starting to see this urgent need to start applying our science to climate change as a problem.”

At Fort Pulaski, Joel Cadoff told me during the hurricanes, there was so much water, the bridges across the moat floated away. Cadoff said they weigh hundreds of pounds and had to be dragged back with tractors.

“Funny thing about the bridge, this one during Hurricane Matthew. We couldn’t find it,” he said. “People were looking we couldn’t find it. And then one day, one of our staff members was looking at Google Earth and found it.”

It was about a quarter mile away. Cadoff says it took so long to find the thing, they just rebuilt it.

“When we think about this fort being here potentially in 100 years, I mean, it is still fighting a battle,” he said. “Not necessarily a battle with artillery, but, you know, a battle still with humans and nature because talking about sea level rise, this fort is still under attack.”

He said, in 100 years, he hopes people will still be able to come to Fort Pulaski. And the fort will still be here. But the visitors might have to be in boats.

'Wish we had more choices': Garden City council candidates must address livability issues

Garden City's District 5, which is the most competitive races in the Nov. 2 municipal elections, sits next to the Georgia Ports. Residents say the locale magnifies the impact of industrialization.It’s around 10 a.m. when Josephine Robinson, a Garden City resident, pulls up to the railroad crossing intersecting Priscilla D. Thomas Way. The CSX train is rolling across the tracks and there’s no telling when exactly it’s going to pass.“Normally it’ll go pretty good,” said Robinso...

Garden City's District 5, which is the most competitive races in the Nov. 2 municipal elections, sits next to the Georgia Ports. Residents say the locale magnifies the impact of industrialization.

It’s around 10 a.m. when Josephine Robinson, a Garden City resident, pulls up to the railroad crossing intersecting Priscilla D. Thomas Way. The CSX train is rolling across the tracks and there’s no telling when exactly it’s going to pass.

“Normally it’ll go pretty good,” said Robinson, “but then it’ll stop and it can take up to an hour or two hours.”

First City Progress:Traffic, construction delays at Wilmington River bridge has costly impacts

Robinson and her children have no choice but to sit in the car and wait. Her family lives in a small neighborhood that is completely blocked off whenever the train crosses Thomas Way, their only way in and out. It’s an extreme case of what other Garden City residents have to deal with on a daily basis, living right next to one of Chatham County’s biggest economic drivers, the Georgia Ports Authority.

But for Robinson and about 20 other households, this extreme case is their reality. Residents who live in neighborhoods on Big Hill Road also face this issue unless they want to run the risk of traveling down a private rail street.

“You don't get used to it, you get upset," said Robinson. "You have to go to the bathroom or there's some emergency and you're behind schedule."

As the Nov. 2 municipal elections draws near, issues about livability, driven in large part by the city’s proximity to the South Atlantic region's busiest railway, dictate who residents want to see in charge of their local government.

Citizens of District 5, which sits closest to the ports, will choose between four candidates this year: incumbent Kim Tice and challengers Corey Foreman, Todd Payne and Chris Figiel.

A Garden City at-large seat is also up with Donna Williams facing previous council member Bruce Campbell. The District 1 seat, currently occupied by Marcia Daniel, is uncontested.

Issues of traffic, infrastructure and essential resources are Garden City residents' top concerns.

Garden City District 5 candidates must address traffic and resources

Garden City residents all deal with train and truck traffic from the GPA's Garden City Terminal to some extent. They also struggle with the growing number of warehouses and container yards, which some say detract from the livability of the city.

However, District 5 feels the effects at an acute level because it neighbors port property.

"I can sit in my backyard and hear the 'clang clang clang'," said Yvonne Blalock, a longtime resident who lives on Herty Avenue.

She said she's gotten used to the noise by now, but then recalls a time last year when her ambulance was stuck behind a train for 30 minutes, delaying treatment for COVID-19. Blalock said she was eventually taken to the hospital, but the dilemma illustrates residents' worst fears.

Over the years, Mayor Don Bethune said city officials have been able to work with the GPA to cut down wait times and the frequency of the blockages. The Mason Mega Rail project, which is scheduled for completion in 2022, will clear the track that runs across the city once it's finished.

However, the neighborhoods on Priscilla D. Thomas Way and Big Hill Road will still be enclosed.

"We're completely surrounded by nothing but traffic," said Foreman, who's lived in the city for two years.

When looking at the map, his district is bookended by Georgia 25 and Georgia 21.

Industrial development raises growth, zoning concerns

Foreman said one of his main goals, if elected, is to control the amount of industrial zoning happening around the city.

"Industry is always going to be here, but if you can't control industry and families and have that mixture, then Garden City isn't a city at that point. It's just an industrial town," said Foreman.

In order to do so, Foreman said residential zoning needs to be preserved and more housing must be developed. He also said he'd like to find more ways for the GPA to compensate residents for their industrial impact.

"When they're putting in a new railroad track, it's not for the benefit of the city, it's for the benefit of the ports," said Foreman.

However, the city's issue with spot zoning presents a challenge to preserving residential areas. Tice, the District 5 incumbent, said she's witnessed residents who become surrounded by industrial or commercial development and decide to move.

"They ask to change their properties from residential to commercial so they can get a fair market value off of their property," said Tice.

Bethune, the mayor, notes that the reason Garden City is able to keep their property taxes so low is because the businesses pay a large portion of it.

"Residents pay typically 12% of the total property tax we take in," said Bethune.

More:Crane operators regularly make more than $90,000 at Georgia Ports. Leadership makes $500,000-plus

Garden City's property tax rate (3.489 mills) is the lowest out of the municipalities in Chatham County, save for Bloomingdale and Vernonburg, which are much smaller in size and have a millage rate of zero.

Tice said her biggest concern is ensuring the safety of the residents and that they continue to have a decent living environment.

"The ports have worked with us in the past," said Tice. "They've made buffers trying to keep the noise reduction down. We also ensure that no 18-wheelers can park in front of their homes."

A call for better municipal management

Payne, who's lived in Garden City for almost eight years, said he thinks the city "has not been managed right."

"We need to do something to draw people here," said Payne. "There's only one grocery store here ... you can't sit down in Garden City and have a good meal."

Comprehensive Plan 2040:Chatham residents want more grocery stores and bike lanes, drainage issues fixed

Payne said he wants to see more resources for residents so that the city doesn't just become a place people pass through.

"You can't find anything essential here," said Payne.

Figiel, who works in hospitality management, said he also wants to see more grocery options in Garden City. Figiel has lived there for about a year and lived around the Coastal Empire prior to that.

"I've seen the area and seen how it's developed, and I've seen how Garden City is kind of getting left behind," said Figiel, "No one really thinks of Garden City, so how do we get out of that mindset?"

Figiel said he wants to improve the small business presence in the city.

"Some other cities have small business ambassadors who will go out when these new businesses open up and they'll help them out, but Garden City doesn't have that," said Figiel.

Della Magaña, who has been a resident since 1987 and lives in District 5, said she wishes Garden City had more of a sense of place. Sometimes she feels her neighborhood’s existence is in limbo.

“I keep waiting, I keep thinking they're (GPA) going to buy us out," she said.

That's one reason she's put off doing repairs on her house. Over the years, she's seen the few number of grocery stores in the city dwindle down to one, and the city hall move from her side of the city to the other.

“We need more choices," said Magaña, "I realize that nobody can make all the changes and things have to work in a system, but even the little things like a festival that would bring the residents together. Those will be the things we can see."

Nancy Guan is the general assignment reporter covering Chatham County municipalities. Reach her at or on Twitter @nancyguann.

COVID pandemic has changed the landscape for Savannah's music and arts scenes

For Do SavannahIn a recent column, I talked about positive changes for the local restaurant scene during the pandemic, including the expansion of outdoor dining and legalization of package alcohol sales.There might be similar long-lasting upsides for the local music and arts scenes, but the jury is still out....

For Do Savannah

In a recent column, I talked about positive changes for the local restaurant scene during the pandemic, including the expansion of outdoor dining and legalization of package alcohol sales.

There might be similar long-lasting upsides for the local music and arts scenes, but the jury is still out.

Unplugged:Should Savannah keep COVID pandemic policies for outdoor dining, alcohol sales?

First, the good news.

Some musicians, venues and organizations implemented high-quality streaming over the past year. Interest in live-streamed shows has waned as time has passed and live shows have become more common, but the streaming options have added new tools to the toolbox.

Just take a look at the great videos produced by the Savannah Jazz Festival in collaboration with WSAV or the many fine performances streamed with awesome video and audio by Michael Gaster & Associates in the Quarantine Concerts series.

Individual bands and musicians also generated income, stayed closer to longtime supporters and cultivated new audiences via web performances. Live streaming may not capture the excitement, energy and intimacy of in-person shows, but the technology will only get better.

The pandemic has also raised the profile of several open-air venues, like the Soundgarden at Coach’s Corner, Collins Quarter at Forsyth and Service Brewing.

The Savannah Philharmonic launched the free series Phil the Squares with Song, which continues at 3 p.m., Saturday in Chippewa Square. The concert will feature the Savannah Philharmonic Chorus performing songs from every decade since 1920.

Unplugged:Savannah Philharmonic, businesses take advantage of outdoor spaces this weekend

The dynamics of the pandemic might also have revealed the existing demand for earlier shows. The Savannah music scene’s penchant for late shows rated high on the cool meter but not so high on the practicality meter.

The local theater scene struggled over the past year, but there was some good news there too. Savannah Repertory Theatre utilized live-streaming successfully and is currently raising money for an exciting new space on Broughton Street. Dovetail Productions had a big success recently with the outdoor performance of Horton Foote’s “A Coffin in Egypt” in Vernonburg. I’ll likely have more to say about that show in a future column.

Despite the various silver linings, I can’t help thinking about the losses and missed chances.

Two irreplaceable venues – The Bayou Café and The Jinx – closed in 2020.

If some restrictions on outdoor events had been relaxed earlier, we might have seen more ambitious programming. The stage in Forsyth Park would have been ideal for concerts or other performances. Squares, parks and even streets could have been used for a variety of small events.

The Starland Mural Project brought some new public art to the Bull Street corridor, but the pandemic didn’t spur any major new initiatives to promote public art.

More:Clinton Edminster wants more public art in Savannah and thinks Starland Fence Art made a good case

Sure, the past year was difficult, but that seems all the more reason to give folks new avenues to enjoy the arts and gather in creative ways.

Of course, those needs will remain even after the pandemic ends, so maybe we can still apply some of the lessons learned over the past year.

Bill Dawers writes the City Talk column for the Savannah Morning News. He can be reached via and @billdawers on Twitter.

Dream homes: Tempting homes for sale in the Bahamas

Dream homes for sale in the BahamasMany travelers think of the Bahamas as a college Spring Break destination.But there’s a sophisticated side to this island chain. The opening of the $4.2 billion Baha Mar resort in Nassau last year has added more luxury to the Bahamas, with three upscale hotels, the largest ca...

Dream homes for sale in the Bahamas

Many travelers think of the Bahamas as a college Spring Break destination.

But there’s a sophisticated side to this island chain. The opening of the $4.2 billion Baha Mar resort in Nassau last year has added more luxury to the Bahamas, with three upscale hotels, the largest casino in the Caribbean, dozens of restaurants, art exhibits, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, and high-end retailers such as Bulgari, Chopard, Cartier and Rolex.

The Bahamas consists of 29 islands and more than 600 cays (sandy elevations atop coral reefs). Outside of the capital city of Nassau, the so-called out islands can be calmer and less trafficked. Many of the islands have pristine beaches and opportunities for diving, boating and exploring nature. The Abacos, for instance, form a 120-mile long chain of islands with golf courses and colonial towns. The Exumas have ultra-private resorts and less-visited beaches.

That gives those looking to purchase a dream home plenty of choices, says Samara Albury, a real estate broker at Hideaways Real Estate.

“Overall real estate in the Bahamas is growing whether you like the casinos and nightlife of the capital, New Providence or the laid back ‘island life’ that the out islands of the Bahamas have to offer,” Albury says.

She points to Hope Town, located on the island of Elbow Cay in the Abaco chain. People there get around by boat, golf cart or bicycle.

“The popularity of Hope Town has a lot to do with the small community that welcome you like family,” she says. “The vacation rental market is also well-established in Abaco offering second homeowners the opportunity to rent their home for a good rental return.”

Nassau still remains the most popular place to purchase a home because of its proximity to the airport, says Neal Sroka, a broker at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. But potential buyers are increasingly considering the out islands even if they are more difficult to get to.

“There’s more and more development in what is considered to be the out islands and there’s been a big push by government to have development in the out islands,” he says. “What makes it so difficult to get there makes it that much more attractive. You don’t have the influx of tourists that you would have in other places.”

The Bahamas can be a particularly good choice for U.S. residents, says Helen Aaron-Dupuch, a broker at ERA Dupuch Real Estate. The Bahamas is less than 200 miles from Miami, and there are multiple daily flights between the two cities. There are also daily flights from Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, New York, Atlanta, and other U.S. cities.

“We have a stable economy and our dollar is on par with the United States dollar, which makes transactions relatively simple, and there are tax benefits as we have no capital gains tax, no income tax, and no wealth tax,” she says.

For a look at five dream homes in the Bahamas – and one dream island – take a look a the photo gallery above.

Dream homes for sale on the Greek Islands

Dream homes for sale in Savannah, Georgia

Dream homes for sale on Lake Michigan


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