(Editor’s note: The following is from Russ Carpenter, Richmond Hill City Council member and mayor pro tempore.)
No doubt you have heard of the City of Richmond Hill’s steps to annex more than 5,000 acres that are a part of Rayonier’s vast land holdings in our county. This progressed after the landowner made a formal request to the city; Rayonier and city council have previously built an excellent relationship through the development of the city’s industrial park, which has already added hundreds of jobs, with more to come.
A few pertinent facts regarding this tremendous opportunity for our growing city:
1. Infrastructure before development. The city’s commitment to ensuring quality growth begins with traffic. Roads that will handle the increased traffic must be constructed before development, and this was a requirement of the city from the beginning of negotiations. Current plans include roads that will cut down on travel time to and from Richmond Hill Middle School, future schools and other destinations.
2. Our schools must be protected. Part of the city’s regulations now in force is a stipulation that impact on schools must be considered as a part of allowing new development. This is paramount.
3. The new development will be of a quality that residents will be proud of: larger lots, meaning less density; amenities and higher construction standards; lots of green space, in addition to the wetlands that compose almost a half of the acreage.
I believe the city is best suited to handle the new growth that is coming to our county whether or not we want it. Regulations and requirements in place will ensure this development and others will be of a high value. I’m thinking Hilton Head-type neighborhoods: plenty of trees, facilities, services, and adequate roads and intersections to better handle the traffic. If you would like to discuss this or any other issue further, please call City Hall at (912) 756-3345.
Furthermore, I would like to clarify the following:
1. Richmond Hill will not be spending tax dollars on the water/sewer system of this or any other development. This would be against state law. The developer and those purchasing the new homes will pay for the water/sewer lines through connection fees.
2. Any required notification to the Bryan County Board of Commissioners was given in a timely and legal manner. The City Council only voted on the first step of the process on Oct. 17.
3. The county had already voted on development of the same land. Their plans allowed for many more homes and did not address, as well, impact on roads and schools, in my opinion.
I agree, the county and city must work together. We are not “feuding,” as many would have you believe. Following are just a few of the major projects the county and city have been or are currently working on together:
1. SPLOST approval which will fund several needed projects.
2. T-SPLOST. This is the transportation sales tax that will pay for construction of many roads and intersections. The city has proposed a spring 2018 vote.
3. Hurricane preparedness, emergency management, and clean up after the two recent storms.
4. Widening of Highway 144. Both governments are working with state agencies in seeing road construction begin on this long-awaited and expensive project.
5. Construction of the new I-95 interchange. This will be a boon for the county’s economy and relieve traffic issues. Construction should commence soon.
6. The new Bryan County Library. The city is negotiating with the county to build the new facility in our Town Centre. The city donating the land is on the table.
7. Attraction of new companies to our industrial parks. Jobs, jobs, jobs!
Richmond Hill and Bryan County, I believe, are on the cusp of great things, and we are diligently working on many long-standing issues. Our schools, standard of living, and sense of community are exceptional, and it is the goal of all your leaders, city and county, to make sure this remains so.
(For more information about the annexation and a map of the proposed area, see: http://www.bryancountynews.com/section/101/article/51037/.)