public archaeology

Draft Archaeology Ordinance

The draft archaeological ordinance was released at close of business Friday, November 8. You can read the four-page document as well as view the powerpoints from the public meetings on Speak Up Savannah, the city’s “new social media space” for feedback and discussion. From this site, you can ask questions and get news updates on the ordinance.

Actual feedback on the draft ordinance should be sent to planning@savannahga.gov. From Bridget Lidy’s notification email: “Comments will be accepted through November 20.  Prior to posting the final version of the ordinance, we will review and evaluate all comments received. A final version of the ordinance will be posted by November 25 in preparation for City Council consideration in December.”

The draft ordinance is exactly as advertised. Archaeology will be required on city construction projects over 1,500 sq. ft. only, using the “traditional” three-staged process of survey, evaluation, and mitigation. The ordinance can be interpreted as only applying to buildings, but not infrastructure such as utilities, which also disturb the ground. It will be illegal to dig or remove artifacts on city property (it already is illegal to dig on city property, but not for archaeological reasons). Also no metal detector use on city property.

Other than the obvious problem that this ordinance will not cover 95% of the development in the city, I will be submitting a few other comments. First, the ordinance defines an archaeological site as artifacts and remains in a location that are at least 75 years old. Fifty years is the federal guideline, and 75 is too long. Once an archaeology site is gone, it’s gone forever. You don’t get the chance to get back a 1950s civil rights site that’s “not old enough”. 

Another big problem: there is no mention of public outreach and education. One of the biggest benefits of requiring archaeology is sharing the findings with the public. It’s also one of the concerns voiced at the second public meeting. I won’t go deeply into all of the public benefits of archaeology (cultural, economic, educational), as there have been entire books written on the subject. But to not require public outreach is a huge “missed opportunity“.

Savannah Under Fire Project in Madison Square, Savannah

5 thoughts on “Draft Archaeology Ordinance”

  1. Need to address National Park Service recommendation for National Historic Landmark District
    -Condition from “Threatened” to “Satisfactory”

    How much of an impact would this have on that status? From what I read the status was changed due to all the truck noises and recent buildings being allowed to be built that are too large, high and modern compared to historical standards.

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  2. How is the city going to pay for the curation of any artifacts discovered when we cant afford to keep a full staff as is? Three members were recently let go cause of lack of funds.

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  3. Are tax payers aware of the cost that will be added to these projects? That guidelines have been established by David Crass the state archaeologist as starting at 9k and going as high as 300k this will hit the tax payer when the developer adds this cost to bottom line of the development!

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  4. As the ordinance currently is proposed, no money is going to be spent, because no (or extremely little) archaeology will be done. All of these questions need to be addressed in the next year as the committee (whoever that may be) discusses more options.

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