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Richmond Hill mayor vetoes billboard denial; lawsuit allegedly threatened
The presentation of the forthcoming RH industrial park.

Richmond Hill’s billboard saga continues.

The Richmond Hill City Council shot down two billboard requests earlier this month. At Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Richard Davis vetoed the council’s action, but council in turn tabled its vote on whether or not to uphold the vetoes based on the advice from city attorney Ray Smith.

Smith advised the mayor and council based on an alleged threat from Georgia Outdoor Advertising, who Smith said has served the city legal notice that they may sue Richmond Hill if the city doesn’t approve their signage request.

Southern Outdoor Advertising is behind the other billboard request.

Each request involved placing a fifth billboard in areas of the city that only allowed three according to the billboard ordinance.

"This is only the third or fourth time in my 20-plus years as mayor that I’ve vetoed an action," Davis said.

Smith asked the council to table their vote in order to "hold the dogs (Georgia Outdoor attorneys) off," as he collects information on what legal grounds the city has to commence with their previous denial.

Smith said he just got the legal notice several days prior to the council meeting. He said he has questions about both billboard requests, which he is now looking into.

Smith said he has not outlined a plan for the I-95 corridor, where both proposed sites are located, and "I need to get out the pen and cut you some corridors on I-95."

Greg Phillips, with Georgia Outdoor, said his company did not intend to threaten the city, but rather is pursuing "cooperative communication" in hopes of getting the requested billboard approved.

"It has never been Georgia Outdoor Advertising’s intent to threaten the city for issuance of any approval of permits," Phillips said. "Richmond Hill is a growing municipality that derives a great deal of commerce from traffic that exits from I-95 on Highways 17 and 144. Local businesses depend on this signage to market their products and services."

The vote whether to uphold the vetoes is tentatively planned for the next council meeting.

In other business:

- Council granted the city engineers the go-ahead to conduct a cost study for providing water and sewer to TerraPointe’s planned industrial park, which is slated to be located on Belfast Siding Road.

The project is on county property, but lies within Richmond Hill’s service delivery area.

Steve Roe, with TerraPointe, said they have a prospective client looking to come to the park and they need to get the study completed in order to accommodate them. If the unnamed company does come to the park, Rowe said it will be the first of several companies to set up shop at the forthcoming 900-acre industrial park, tentatively called the Belfast Commerce Center.

- Councilman and Mayor Pro-tem Floyd Hilliard said he would like to revive the tree ordinance. At an earlier council meeting, Mayor Davis proposed it to be tabled so it wouldn't burden local homebuilders during the current downturn in the housing industry.

Hilliard said he’d like to see it back on the table and passed as soon as possible.

City Manager Mike Melton said the ordinance still needs some work done on it, including continued discussions with the Homebuilders Association, but he would "pick it back up and work on it again … but it will be at least a couple months before it comes back to council."

Wayne Jackson, president of the Homebuilders Association, said the city has actively overseen the proper management of trees within developments despite the fact that an actual tree ordinance has yet to be in place.

Jackson said he is not opposed to having the ordinance back on the table but wants to be included in the process, which was agreed upon.

- Council approved a changeable message sign to be added to the opposite side of the large digital sign that sits in the Clyde’s parking lot at the corner of Hwy. 17 and 144.

- Council granted Steamer’s owner Danny Butler the right to erect an 18-foot sign at property he owns near the intersection of Ponderosa Road and Hwy. 17. Planning and Zoning Director Steve Scholar said Butler has discussed placing a restaurant at that site in the future.

- Council agreed with Melton’s motion to raise the security deposit at the Wetlands Center from $100 to $200.

Melton said this should curtail the common occurrence of folks leaving the place dirty in lieu of getting their $100 back.

- Council approved the request of 2009 Seafood Festival Chairman Mike Sisco to allow beer and wine to be sold at the event, which takes place October 16-17.

- Public works supervisor David Buchanan said 30 tons of junk was collected from city residents last week during the annual large item pick-up.

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