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Contested project gets RH approval
Charlie Stafford addresses city council members on Tuesday. - photo by Ross Blair

The usually sparsely-attended meeting of the Richmond Hill City Council was filled to near-capacity Tuesday. It was mostly populated by residents of the Mulberry Subdivision who were in opposition to a zoning issue concerning a proposed nearby 1.8-acre vehicle storage facility on property owned by Charlie Stafford.

Stafford plans to build two buildings to store vehicles and one to restore vehicles. He said the restoration shop will be used to restore his classic cars with part of one of the storage buildings used to store his vehicles. For the remainder of the space, he plans to have rental space available for others to park their automobiles or boats "to offset the costs of the buildings."

In addition, he plans to utilize a 60-foot easement access the structures. The easement is at the beginning of Mulberry Subdivision.

During the meeting and at a prior planning and zoning meeting some Mulberry residents voiced their opinion against the project. Resident Mike Zolno complained of potential traffic.

"If this is just a plain storage building for Mr. Stafford’s vehicles, then clearly it would be for the betterment of the residents of Mulberry if he accessed through land of his own than through Mulberry," he said.

Some accused the city of wrongdoing in facilitating Stafford’s prior purchase of the easement.

Mayor Richard Davis said he took offense to accusations of misconduct regarding the land deal involving the easement and said part of the original deal involved Stafford donating large parcels of land that are now J.F. Gregory Park.

"To a large extent, we owe it to Mr. Stafford that we have J.F. Gregory Park," Davis said. "He gave us 15 acres and we bought 15 acres … so instead of making allegations that there’s some kind of crooked work going on, Mr. Stafford needs to be commended for working with the city."

Some residents complained of the land being used for commercial use.

But Councilman and Mayor Pro-tem Floyd Hilliard said he visited the property, which is currently zoned C-2 Commercial, while looking at a list of the commercial land uses that are already approved.

Those include a concert hall, bowling alley, funeral home, grocery store, hotel and restaurant. Stafford was on the agenda because his use was not on the approved list.

"When you look at what could go in there, I was having a hard time understanding the opposition," said Hilliard. "As a councilperson, you have to consider the best use for that land, and Mr. Stafford’s proposal seems much less intrusive than what could be."

Stafford took the podium and said he was puzzled why anyone would oppose this project when his proposed vehicle storage plan "is about the lowest profile structure you could build."

Council unanimously approved the project, but Planning and Zoning Director Steve Scholar noted that the only proposal on the table right now is for "vehicle storage use, and Stafford’s restoration shop proposal will have to be heard at a future date.

In other business, Davis presented a key to the city of Richmond Hill to 9-year-old Jaydon Hodges. Jaydon requested his mother Marilyn help him assist the Ware County firefighters rather than get presents for his ninth birthday. Jaydon then went door-to-door to collecting a large number of goods which were transported to the firefighters.

Davis gave Jaydon the key, a framed certificate and read a proclamation calling him "a powerful influence for good in our community by inspiring others around him to join with him to help the firefighters battling these wildfires … in his generosity and selflessness he has brought honor and credit to his family, his friends, and his city."

"I was in awe of the presentation," said Marilyn. "I’m very, very proud of him."

Jaydon said he realizes you have to do something incredible to earn this sort of recognition and is very thankful to Mayor Davis.

Davis said it was an honor and a privilege for him to present this particular award. "We need more children like young Jaydon," he said. "It is my hope that this will encourage him to continue with acts such as this as he grows older."

In other business:

- A liquor license was approved for Betty Ann Burton to open a BB&J Package Store in the Publix shopping center.

- The first reading of revised alcohol ordinance took place. The new ordinance will break away from the state’s way of measuring the distance between businesses selling alcohol and other businesses, such as a daycare. If the revised ordinance is approved, the city will measure by travel distance as opposed to straight-line distance.- Guidelines for revised engineering design standards were approved which means a booklet for developers and builders will be created to outline all the city’s design requirements and restrictions.

-A setback variance and a final plat of Cottonham Plantation, located in Richmond Hill Plantation, were approved.

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