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Residents voice zoning concerns at RH City Council
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At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, three Richmond Hill residents shared their concerns regarding a property rezoning petition.

Under the Planning and Zoning tab on the agenda, a petition was filed requesting to rezone 4.107 acres of land located on Harris Trail Rd. and move it from unincorporated Bryan County (Rural Residential) to City of Richmond Hill (C-2, Downtown Commercial).

The petition, which was a first reading and therefore not voted on at the council meeting, first received public comments from Margaret Harris Jones and Sherida Boles, a mother-daughter duo who live together near the affected area.

Boles spoke first, sharing first her concerns about safety, where she said that there ‘are no sidewalks’ in the vicinity, and that the area is already crowded with neighboring schools, housing, and an existing gas station.

“So to add additional commercial [property], I just don’t think that would be a good idea to do that,” said Boles.

“To bring a business there, it is going to increase the influx of traffic, it is going to increase the noise value and the safety value as well,” Harris Jones said.

“And like my daughter said, it is going to decrease my property value.”

“We all want an increase in our investment, not a decrease,” said Harris Jones.

Up next was Jen Hilburn, a resident of Richmond Hill’s Blueberry District for 22 years and who is also the North Coast advocate at One Hundred Miles, a coastal non-profit organization based in Brunswick that is ‘working to protect and preserve Georgia’s coast through advocacy, education, and citizen engagement’, according to its website.

Jen Hilburn, reading off a prepared speech, shared her concerns regarding the potential rezoning as well as the Blueberry district as a whole. Hilburn cited noise pollution as a major issue within her neighborhood community, as well as the smell of petroleum emissions.

“I have personally documented many days in the Blueberry [District] of DBA [decibels A] levels of 80+ which is enough to be considered a threat to one’s hearing, stress disruption, [and] stress-induced medical issues,” Hilburn said.

Hilburn acknowledges that Blueberry District residents ‘are aware’ that they live next to a freeway and so should shouldn’t expect a ‘pristine’ environment, but nevertheless, Hilburn maintains that these noises are beyond what is normal or expected.

“Over the years, the Blueberry has always heard this freeway traffic, but as the commercial properties of the Ford Park of Commerce have been sold or cleared, the noise has become louder and louder,” said Hilburn.

“By winter of 2022, things were getting really loud. So loud that it was suggested by my friends and family at my holiday gatherings that we had to move to another location because we couldn’t speak outdoors across the table.”

“We could scream, but we couldn’t speak,” narrated Hilburn.

“The Blueberry District now looks and lives in the noise and pollution from I-95, all year round,” said Hilburn.

Hilburn then went on to the subject of petroleum emissions, saying “everyone in our community has complained about the smell of petroleum emission in the past several months.” Hilburn noted that she is also in the process of acquiring an air pollution monitor to confirm this as well.

Hilburn ended her comments with proposing a potential buffer, citing various Richmond Hill buffer zone statutes and made an appeal to City Council members to not “kick the can down the road” and work to find a good solution.

“Let’s instead prioritize making a solution, finding a solution for the historic Blueberry District.” Hilburn said.

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