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City could annex 5,000 acres
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Richmond Hill City Council will vote Tuesday night to annex more than 5,000 acres along Belfast Keller Road, Belfast River Road and Harris Trail, including land that could include the proposed new Richmond Hill High School.

The application for the annexation was made by Raydient Places + Properties LLC, the real estate arm of Rayonier.

The largest of the four pieces of land is 2,000 acres identified as map and parcel number 049-003, which is off Belfast Keller Road near I-95 and Warren Hill Road. The other pieces of land include parts of tracts under map and parcel numbers 057-100, 055-060 and 049-004. 

Assistant City Manager Scott Allison said the land in question abuts the city's current boundaries along Belfast Keller Road east of I-95 near the Belfast Commerce Centre and also off of Harris Trail near Port Royal Road. The property extends along Harris Trail to Belfast River Road and up to Belfast Keller Road.

The area in question could also include another elementary school that the Bryan County Board of Education is considering. The new high school is in the planning stages and proposed to open in 2021. The current Richmond Hill Middle School is not included in the annexation. The board of education would have to petition the city to have it annexed.

Previously approved zoning allows for several thousand homes to be built on the land.

"If council approves the request, we'll concurrently start the zoning process according to our ordinances," Allison said. "Rayonier as the owners are already entitled to a certain number of units from PUDs approved by the county, but the density will be much less."

A transportation study commissioned by the city and county in 2015 called for a connector road to be built between Harris Trail and Belfast Keller to relieve congestion on Highway 144. Allison said the annexation will make that a reality.

"That is going to cut a ton of miles off of routes for school buses and also for other vehicles," he said. "There are actually a lot of old logging roads in place that can be utilized."

City council meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

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