I am writing in response to the April 28 letter, "Reader questions the procedure for RH town center." Some inaccuracies and misperceptions should be clarified for your readers and for all Richmond Hill residents.
The Richmond Hill City Council approved the purchase of a 51-acre parcel of property last October.
This purchase followed an extensive search for a large tract of land to accommodate the expansion of civic space, park space and a town center that is both centrally located within our city limits and developable from an environmental standpoint. As stipulated by the city attorney, the purchase agreement required the city to be responsible for the installation of infrastructure on a parcel it owns, including roadwork, a sanitary sewer lift station and drainage improvements. As a result, the city received a credit on the cost of the property. Although some of this infrastructure will be utilized by adjacent future developments, all of it is applicable and necessary for the expansion of civic space, park space and a town center on the 51 acres. Additionally, the adjacent developments will pay permit and connection fees that will recover a large portion of the costs burdened by the city for the infrastructure installation.
Even though infrastructure installation is necessary, the property was still purchased well below market value, based on the appraisal of $2.2 million as raw land and more than $3.2 million with the infrastructure. This means that, from the moment the property was purchased for less than $1.1 million until the time the infrastructure costs become reality, the city will maintain $1 million in equity on the property. I’m not a developer or banker, but that seems like a wise investment and prudent use of taxpayer money.
No money was borrowed for the purchase or infrastructure construction to date, nor did the city issue any bonds to finance the purchase of the property.
The 51 acres of land is located off of Highway 144 directly across the Cherry Hill entrance to the Ford Plantation and can hardly be considered located "in the middle of the woods" as the letter implies. This property is geographically centered in the area of current and future development in Richmond Hill and South Bryan County. Neighborhoods near Richmond Hill Plantation and the southern city limits boundary near Port Royal Road are on the edge of being underserved, and the level of service has deficiencies related to city-owned and maintained parks.
Additionally, the city parks’ level of service does not extend beyond the existing southern city limits; therefore, any properties annexed in the future would be underserved. The future park and civic space in the 51 acres will serve to reduce this evident gap in service for existing and future developments in the areas mentioned above, as well as future annexation south of Port Royal Road.
The city has been working with a Master Plan Advisory Committee since November 2015 to design and program the elements and functions of the 51-acre property. This committee is composed of a wide array of community members who are assisting us in systematically walking down the path to plan something we can all be proud to have in our community.
As we all know, we will only get one chance to do something special with this land.
The city also held an open house on Jan. 7 at City Hall in order to receive more input on the proposed use of the property from any and all residents, visitors and business owners in the community.
I really wish the author of the April 28 letter would have attended the open house or contacted me prior to writing inaccuracies and broad assumptions on the purchase and plans for the property.
I am more than happy to discuss the city’s future plans or meet with any concerned resident, whatever the issue. As always, I can be reached at email@example.com or 912-756-3345.