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Plans change
Richmond Hill votes to move site of planned conference center
Rh-council-meeting-1 corr
Richmond Hill Mayor Richard Davis poses for a photo with Karin Brookshire after presenting her with a plaque to commemorate her late husband, who recently paid the ultimate price while on a military tour of duty in Iraq. - photo by Ross Blair

The Richmond Hill City Council voted earlier this week to end a plan to build a convention center on developer Johnny Murphy’s land in Richmond Hill Plantation, claiming Murphy would not relinquish the deed to the land.

In a two-part motion, council members also agreed to explore the possibility of placing the convention center on land they already own behind J.F. Gregory Park.

About two years ago, the city and Murphy reportedly entered a verbal agreement in which Murphy would give the city 10 acres of land in the center of the golf course he is building in Richmond Hill Plantation. The initial plan called for building a convention center and an aquatic center.

"It has been a challenge trying to acquire this property we were promised, so we need to move on," said Davis.

Davis and convention center project consultant Kirby Glaze both said the alternative site, behind the park, is beginning to look like a more attractive location because it will compliment planned downtown development such as the streetscape project and Dr. Bill Trout’s Richmond Hill Station Xchange.

Murphy said he has not handed over the land deed because of his growing concern over some of the potential disturbances the city’s project could cause to the future residents of his Richmond Hill Plantation development.

He also said city officials have turned down meeting with him and his attorney to discuss the potential activity the convention center would produce.

"Our concerns are noise level, if you have stuff like outdoor concerts or weddings going on. When we started this whole thing, we were strictly dealing with daytime events," Murphy said. "We never got to ask these questions because the city won’t sit down with my attorney and me."

Murphy also noted a part of the convention center that will have alcohol for sale. He said this could cause potential problems with residents.

"What if the place closes down over it? We’d have a closed facility right there on our 18th green," he said.

Murphy said he wished he had the convention center on his land, but he is not upset over the city’s decision.

"I think we’re in the same boat here," he said. "We couldn’t come to terms. I’m just afraid of the unknown here and we weren’t going to give them the deed until there is discussion to make sure of all these things."

Davis said city officials have met with Murphy numerous times regarding this project.

In reference to the aquatic center, Davis said it will still be built, but in a later phase and probably in a different location.

In other business:
• Davis presented Richmond Hill resident Karin Brookshire with a plaque honoring the memory of her late husband who was killed in Iraq in June while on a military tour of duty. • Approval was granted to Michael Casey to rezone his residential property near Magnolia Street and Hwy. 144 to commercial.
• Approval was granted to Charles Stafford to build a vehicle maintenance and restoration facility on his property located behind Flash Foods and Coastal Communications.
• Approval was granted for land owner Kenny Patel to combine a 40-foot easement and a 3.7-acre lot at the corner of Ponderosa and highway 17, across from Hampton Inn, to potentially build another hotel. Patel currently owns the Hampton, the Best Western and Comfort Suites, which all neighbor each other.
• Site plans and building elevations were approved for Ella’s owner Dana Lewis to build an accessory building behind Ella’s. Lewis is in the process of purchasing the small white building that sits next to Beef ‘O’ Brady’s in order to then transport it to her facility.
• Ray Pittman of Thomas & Hutton addressed council with a power point presentation about the forthcoming Terrapointe project.
• An alcoholic beverage license was granted for King Chan Chan for a Japanese restaurant at Park South.

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