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Third time no charm for rezoning request
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Audience members listen as the Richmond Hill City Council meets. - photo by Ross Blair
Rezoning for the Colonial Marsh project, a proposed subdivision next to Sterling Creek, was shot down for the third time by the Richmond Hill City Council at the Feb. 6 regular meeting, much to the delight and applause of the Sterling residents who came out in support of a denial.
Prior to presenting the request, Richmond Hill Mayor Richard Davis cautioned the crowd to have “absolute respect for one another” despite the emotions that may be stirred from the controversial topic.
Harold Yellin, serving as a spokesman for the project, started the discussion by stating that developer Ellis Skinner and his partners have made numerous adjustments in order to adhere to the public and council members. He said that they decreased density by reducing the amount of units to 373, down from the proposed 392 at July’s council meeting and 475 in the original plan.
He further stated that the project being proposed this night is the absolute best use for the land. In addition to the single-family housing units, which he made a point to say were not condos, the proposal includes four parks, six ponds, a lake, amenity center and walking trail.
Yellin noted that, if built, Colonial Marsh would be the least dense subdivision in the immediate area, with an on-average less than two houses per acre and 44 percent of the 187-acre tract being left undeveloped.
“I’m not sure there’s anything more we can say or do to change the mind of the our petitioners,” Yellin said. “The only other option is to do nothing with the land, and doing nothing is not a viable alternative.”
Council members Jo Ann Bickley, Floyd Hilliard and Billy Albritton (Jimmy Hires was absent) all stated their disenchantment with the potential traffic and added congestion the project would entail. Bickley focused on concerns of only one entranceway being constructed for the subdivision, Hilliard stated that the timing was wrong for a project of this magnitude, while Albritton spoke of the public outcry against the project.
“In my ten years, I’ve never encountered a project that has received so much opposition,” Albritton said. “99 an nine-tenths percent of the neighboring residents are against it, and we are obligated to recognize that.”
Sterling Creek resident Marilyn Hodges presented the Mayor and members of council a petition signed by 241 Sterling Creek residents in opposition to Colonial Marsh. She also presented a stat sheet from the police department indicating the large amount of auto accidents in the area near the proposed subdivision, stating that the project would drastically increase the number of accidents.
Sterling Creek resident Constance Riggins stated that there are already too many cars traveling on Harris Trail Road, and it is unsafe to add more development to it. She said that she sympathizes with the developers, but they have to look at other alternatives because “this equation does not work.”
The rezoning request was unanimously denied by the three present members of council, which led to simultaneous cheering from the attending residents.
Since the rezoning effort was denied, it can not be presented before the council for six months. If the request is modified, it can, however, be presented sooner.
When contacted for comment on Wednesday, Skinner stated that he does not have a definite plan as far as his next move for Colonial Marsh. Still reeling from the denial, he said that he will soon begin to formulate a new game plan for the planned subdivision.
In other business:
•    The size and content for the new Park South sign on Highway 17 was approved.
•    A request from BLS Development was approved for site plans and building elevations on an office/warehouse at Highway 144 and I-95.
•    Plans for restrooms, a refreshment stand, a maintenance building, office and roadwork for the golf course on Richmond Hill Plantation were approved.
•    CVB Administrator Christy Hyer gave a presentation to the Mayor and council detailing the group’s advertising efforts to publicize the city and relayed the CVB’s progress as they are manicuring and moving into the building occupied by the Richmond Hill Historical Society. Hyer also spoke of the potential revenue that could be generated from a $5000 grant given to publicize Arts on the Coast and an arranged Richmond Hill visit from numerous travel writers on March 14.
•    Richmond Hill City Manager Mike Melton showed a film produced by the GMA about the city’s recent Trendsetter Award they received for the wastewater treatment center.
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