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New Colonial Marsh project unveiled
The new master plan for Colonial Marsh.

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Video clip of the presentation.

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Representatives with Coastal Landworx, consultant Walt Blush and developer Mike Frances gave the first public presentation of the proposed Colonial Marsh project, currently an undeveloped 187-acre tract that borders Sterling Creek, on Oct. 15.
The event was attended by city officials as well as around 15 Sterling Creek residents.
The new version of Colonial Marsh, under new ownership, is proposed to include a city aquatic center, a YMCA facility and 500 residential units. Much of the feedback from attending residents included concern over increased traffic the project could potentially cause.
Blush said, according to an ongoing traffic study, the impact on traffic should be minimal. He said only 80 single-family residential units will access Sterling Creek Drive and the other proposed 420 units could not access their properties along that route.
Sterling resident Dave Boney said he is concerned that impact from those 80 homes will lead to the road being widened, which would lead to “that street being in my living room.” Sterling resident Joe Delong expressed the same concern, saying the road is too thin now for emergency vehicles to come through it.
Frances said if the traffic impact from those 80 homes is too much of a problem, an alternative plan could be made. Blush said more information should be available on this when the traffic study concludes.
In response to a question about potential depreciation in property values, Blush said the proposed amenities in Colonial Marsh should increase values of nearby Sterling Creek properties. In addition to ball fields, fishing lakes and docks, the biggest amenity is the 17-acre aquatic center/YMCA, and there are plans to make them one and the same. Coastal Landworx plans to donate the land and $1.5 million to the city to create the center.
“It would be a win-win if this proposal goes through, “YMCA Director Tony Welch said. “The YMCA does pools,” Welch said. “We would add more money to it to make it a full YMCA facility. According to my superiors, as long as we build a nice efficient pool to serve the community, this can be done. We can also build a full service YMCA where we have the gymnasium, the gymnasium, the aerobics, the wellness center – all the bells and whistles.”
Welch said he has talked with city officials about diverting the 17 acres and $1.5 million to the Y, in order for them to handle the aquatic center project. He said the total cost of the proposed Y center would be around $4 million, and the organization can raise and borrow to the remaining balance. He also said he had nearly lost hope for the opportunity to create a facility inside the city limits but was very excited when this proposal arose.
Sterling resident Constance Riggins brought up the nine conditions that were placed on the previous owners of the tract - including a maximum density of 250 units, a 40-acre park be placed between Colonial Marsh and Sterling Creek and a traffic light be added at the entranceway - and asked how the new owners could be exempt from these restrictions.
Blush said the only condition they are not meeting is the density. He said the project could not be profitable if only 250 units were to be built.
In response to questions about traffic safety, Blush said Genesis plans to erect two traffic lights and cross walks on both sides of the railroad tracks in front of the high school. He said negotiations are ongoing with the railroad company in order to get the necessary clearance needed to make this happen but that negotiations are going well.
“We have received the authorization to proceed from Riceboro Railroad with two conditions,” Blush said. “The two conditions are: we have the crossing inspected by their engineers and that we have the drainage along the easement of the new access road reviewed by their engineers. We are in the process of having both of those conditions addressed.”
Blush said the lights will make Harris Trail Road safer than it is now, which includes a light at the access road coming out of Richmond Hill High School.
Blush also said this project will be beneficial in that it will bring some affordable housing to Richmond Hill. The homes will be priced between $150,000 and $350,000. 250 units are etched out for an apartment complex. The remainder of the density is scheduled to be 80 single-family homes, 120 town house units and an undetermined amount of senior living units.
Frances said the units will be phased in over eight years, but the aquatic center will be built before the first home goes up. He also said the first home won’t go up for approximately two years from now.
“I think everybody came in here pretty edgy because of what happened the last time with this project,” Boney said after the meeting. “I’m still skeptical and I don’t want to see the traffic on that road (Sterling Creek Drive), but at least they did the research on the railroads, which their predecessors didn’t. I feel a little more confident about what they’re trying to do. What they’re offering is more acceptable than what the other group offered.”
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