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Conference center could be new park addition
An aerial view of where the new conference center may be constructed at. - photo by Photo provided.

Consultant Kirby Glaze and architect Rick Wissmach made a presentation during Tuesday’s Richmond Hill City Council meeting regarding an ongoing feasibility study on whether or not the city should place its forthcoming conference center inside J.F. Gregory Park.

The center was originally slated to be placed inside developer Johnny Murphy’s Richmond Hill Plantation, near the new Sterling Links golf course. When negotiations recently fell apart, city officials instructed Glaze to seek out an alternative site. Glaze came back last month and reported his initial plans to target the park, which he saw as the most viable alternative. Council approved a motion to explore the park as a potential site.

The proposed location for the conference center is at the far end of the park, just north of the Wetlands Center and neighboring the historic rice fields and Mulberry subdivision.

The proposed center is 2600 square feet, including the upper level, and will have a capacity of 200 guests will be able to accommodate up to 200 cars, according to Glaze.

On Tuesday, Glaze and Wissmach explained why they believe the park site would be a good move. Wissmach said the location would help create a strong downtown Richmond Hill appeal, and would compliment the existing park and forthcoming Station Xchange project across the street.

Tackling potential obstacles, Glaze said the tract would not impede on wetlands, would fit well in the allotted space and that the parking lot would be built where the old wastewater treatment facility stood to avoid possible leftover underground cement blocks or things of that nature.

Mayor Richard Davis and Councilperson Joann Bickley both complimented the proposal. Davis asked if there was room for a hotel on the grounds, Glaze said there is adequate space for an 80-90 room hotel, if city officials wish to construct one.

City officials said approval or denial of constructing the center at this location could come as soon as the next council meeting on Oct. 2, but may take longer.

The architectural plans for this proposal can be seen on

In other business:

- City finance director Bob Whitmarsh announced the 2007 millage rate as 4.239, which is a half a percent lower than last year’s. The mayor and council said they were surprised and pleased that the millage was able to decrease in spite of the recent homestead exemptions.

- Setback requests for an accessory building from Richmond Place resident Steve Heilman was denied. Prior to the meeting, the city ordered Heilman to stop the construction of the building in his backyard, stemming from complaints of neighbors. Several neighbors attended the meeting and said the building is too close to their property, and many fear he will try to conduct commercial business out of it. Heilman will now have to either move or dismantle the partially-constructed accessory building.

- RHPD Chief Billy Reynolds conducted the first reading of a motorized cart ordinance which would regulate the use of golf carts, ATVs and motorized scooters. Reynolds said they are necessary in some communities and nuisances in others. Accordingly, they will soon be legal in some designated subdivisions with additional rules to prohibit children under 16 driving these vehicles.

- Reynolds introduced newly-hired officer Brian Nesmith to the mayor and council.

- A mixed-use residential permit was granted to McDonald’s owner Gary Dodd. Dodd will be constructing a three-story building next to the McDonald’s on Hwy. 17 on land currently occupied by the dilapidated remains of a gas station. Dodd is contemplating a split use for retail or office on the lower floors with residential on the top to accommodate visiting corporate McDonald’s employees when they are in town.

- City manager Mike Melton gave a power point presentation on Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson’s proposed HR900 bill. Melton, backed with information from the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA), said it would shift the rights of city government to the capitol. "It reeks of communism," added Davis.


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