Arbor Cottages tenants react to landlord's drug arrest -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Arbor Cottages tenants react to landlord's drug arrest


There was no mercy from a judge Thursday for the owner of Arbor Cottages in Savannah, as bond was denied.

 Stephen Varnedoe was arrested Wednesday and charged with possession of meth, marijuana, drug paraphanalia and police say Varnedoe is a convicted felon who had firearms in his possession.

Unlike Judge Claire Cornwall Williams, who gave Varnedoe several chances to get his property up to code, Judge Harris O'Dell was not so merciful when it came to his new encounter with the law.

The situation at Arbor Cottages unfolded Wednesday afternoon, but actually started with a tip the night before to police about a large amount of electronics being kept on the property.

A search warrant was issued, the raid took place the next day and Varnedoe was arrested.

He has hired a private attorney, Martin Hilliard, who was not in court when bond was denied. 

Varnedoe did not say a word.

A preliminary hearing was set for Feb. 12 at 2 p.m.

Residents at the Arbor Cottages are now in limbo. Their landlord is in jail for another three weeks.

It's what the landlord was arrested for that really has folks confused.

Some tenants we spoke to are just trying to make sense of what happened. They saw police take a battering ram to their landlord's apartment in the back of the housing complex and then the man they defended, the man they credited with cleaning up the drug problem there, was arrested for drugs. 

"Mass confusion," said Audrey Huddleston. "I thought everything was completely straight here. I didn't know of any drugs, any prostitutes, any whores. It's shocking."

Huddleston was one of Varnedoe's loudest supporters when the city came down on him for code violations last year.

"The most you'll find in here is a cigarette and I don't mean marijuana. I mean a cigarette," Huddleston told WTOC last year. "We are happy here. Mr. Varnedoe is a very good landlord."

However, after Wednesday's raid and Varnedoe's arrest for possession of methamphetamines and marijuana, among other charges, the tenants' future once again at Arbor Cottages is in doubt, and Huddleston and others have had a change of heart.

"I don't know what to say. I'm lost. In the owner's house? I love him. I had so much faith in him. It's just shocking," she said. "I defended him to the end. I believed in him. It's not that I was a liar. I believed in him, totally."

She says she'll let the justice system play out but Huddleston said she's not defending Varnedoe anymore.

"If they are breaking the law, I will not defend them," she said. "Right is right and wrong is wrong. I ain't going to hell for anybody."

What residents are really worried about is not what will happen to their landlord, but what will happen to them. Huddleston is thinking about moving to live with her son out of state.

Many people stayed at Arbor Cottages because Varnedoe worked to get the units up to code after multiple court hearings last year.

Varnedoe will be in jail until his next court appearance on Feb. 12. Police are continuing their investigation and there is still no word on the future of Arbor Cottages.

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