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Plans move forward on industrial park
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Richmond Hill might be close to annexing a 1.4-square-mile swath of land near the intersection of Belfast Siding Road and I-95, a move that is the first step to building an industrial park that promises jobs and tax revenues for the area.
City officials said this week that they are negotiating with TerraPointe LLC, the real estate arm of Rayonier, on an agreement to bring water and sewer services to the 900 acres Belfast Business Center is slated to be built, about 2 miles away from Richmond Hill’s city limits.
Once that agreement is finalized, the Richmond Hill City Council will take action on annexing the land, said Mike Melton, the city manger.
An agreement is expected by December, said Jim Stackpoole, the vice president of TerraPointe.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to wrap this up in the next 60 days,” he said. 
After city and Bryan County officials agree to annex the land, it has to be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice, Melton said. That process can take about six months.
The purpose of annexing the land is to provide water and sewer services to the site, which currently does not have utilities or infrastructure. It will cost about $4 million to build the water and sewer infrastructure to connect to the city’s system and treatment plant near Sterling Creek, which is in the planning stages of being expanded, Melton said.
TerraPointe is to underwrite the 20-year loan from Georgia Environmental Finance Agency for that new infrastructure, Stackpoole said.
Jimmy Burnsed, the Bryan County Commission chairman, said it’s best for the city to annex Belfast Business Center since its wastewater treatment plant is closer to the site.
“It makes more sense for the city to provide the services,” he said, noting the county will likely provide fire services to the site.
This summer, Atlanta Gas Light agreed to build a $2.2 million natural gas pipeline that will serve the Belfast Business Center.
Stackpoole said that if all goes well, his company can have a “shovel ready” project in 18 months.
The area is ripe for an industrial center because of its access to I-95, which runs down the Atlantic seaboard, and railroad tracks, which lead to the port of Savannah, Stackpoole said. Officials are also hoping to get an interchange at that site to connect to the highway.
“We feel that the property’s come of age to be a successful industrial site,” Stackpoole said.
The industrial site is designed to host warehouse and distribution companies, and manufacturing companies, a type of business that South Bryan County has not seen in 25 years, Stackpoole said.
“We hope to change that trend,” he said.
All sides agreed that the Belfast Business Center will benefit the city and the county.
“South Bryan County has been a bedroom community … for a long time,” said Ted Akins, the chairman of the Bryan County Development Authority. “We need jobs in South Bryan County. And everyone will agree with that.”
Richmond Hill Mayor Harold Fowler also said the industrial center will bring jobs to the community and will ease some of the tax burden off of the residents. Eventually, the city would like to annex properties all the way down to the industrial center, he added.
“I think it’s a big plus for the city and the county,” Mayor Fowler said.
The Belfast Business Center site is a wise move economically, Burnsed said. 
“We think it is a great project that has some real potential for adding jobs to our area, and more business,” he said. “It’s a very good proposal.”
Josh Fenn, the executive director of the Bryan County Development Authority, said the county had success with the Industrial Centre in Black Creek and it’s time that South Bryan sees some new industry. The Belfast Business Center’s location is also ideal, and it will not be hard to find a tenant, he added. 
 “We will not have to wait to locate a manufacturer,” Fenn said.

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