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Richmond Hill City Council approves 51-acre purchase for potential downtown area

The Richmond Hill City Council approved a land-purchase agreement at a special called meeting Thursday that seals the deal on the purchase of 51.128 acres of land that eventually could become the home of a city complex, including a new city hall.  

Earlier in October, Councilman Russ Carpenter said the area potentially could create a downtown area for Richmond Hill.

The land was purchased for $1,052,849.13 from Plantation Village Partners and John A. Murphy and Leslie Murphy LLC and is located across from the Cherry Hill entrance to the Ford Plantation on Ford Avenue. 

The vote to approve the agreement was unanimous. Councilman Johnny Murphy, however, recused himself from the discussion and vote because he holds a financial interest in the property being bought. The motion to approve the agreement came from Councilman John Fesperman and was seconded by Carpenter. 

City Manager Chris Lovell said the purchase agreement requires the city to be responsible for the installation of infrastructure on the parcel, including roadwork, a sanitary sewer lift station and drainage improvements. 

"We got the property at a considerably cheaper price because we are putting in the infrastructure improvements, including a drainage pond," Lovell said. 

Lovell said he expected to see the roadwork and lift station completed within 18 months, but the construction of a new city hall would be a longer term project, likely in the 8-10 year range. 

"We needed extra space for city business, and the value was too good to pass up," he said. 

The city manager also said in addition to a new city hall and city park, the property could include significant commercial opportunities, perhaps including a new library facility. 

Lovell said one financing arrangement under consideration includes a "bond for title" arrangement with the Georgia Municipal Association. Under the arrangement, the city would pay the purchase price for the property then give title to the property to the GMA and lease the property back under favorable financial arrangements that would include property improvements.  

Lovell said the council had previously approved the agreement but some small items remained  to be cleared up, including the costs of engineering services being paid for by the city and clarifying responsibilities on drainage and road improvements. Lovell said those modifications required the approval of the City Council at the Thursday special meeting.

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