I was very disappointed that Steve Croy, the developer of Plantation Village, pulled his proposal at the last minute Tuesday, negating a public hearing that had been planned for weeks. Plantation Village is an apartment, single-home, commercial and retail project proposed to be built on Hwy. 144 near Magnolia Manor.
The citizens of Richmond Hill and Bryan County deserve to be heard regarding something that affects us so greatly – traffic on Hwy. 144. There were many citizens ready to voice their concerns at the hearing.
The reason for suddenly canceling the public hearing was reportedly a deal worked out with the residents of the Ford Plantation, which had vehemently opposed the project. The impact that this high-density project would have on property values is not the only concern voiced by many people in Richmond Hill.
My major concern, and one many residents share, is traffic. The developer’s own traffic study reveals that there are currently more than 10,000 trips across this part of Hwy. 144 each day. The first phase of Plantation Village will add more than 6,000 trips, with 13,000 more by the end of Phase 3. You don’t need a traffic study to tell you that Hwy. 144 is already overcrowded.
A development like this will also have a major impact on our schools. Can anyone provide evidence that we can handle this influx of students? In Richmond Hill’s ordinances are several provisions regarding traffic congestion and impact on schools. We must follow our own ordinances.
I realize this may mean added construction jobs for those who need them, but to cast aside our own guidelines for this reason is not the way to run a city. When the workers are gone, we will have to contend with an even more crowded highway, and the plans to widen Hwy. 144, according to the Department of Transportation, will not begin until 2016. It was supposed to begin in 2006.
At the City Council meeting after the canceled public hearing, councilmember Van Hunter made a motion to subdivide the Plantation Village property. This is not an approval of the project, but it is the first step for it to go forward. Mayor Harold Fowler voiced his support of this motion. But since there was no second, the motion died for now.
I do not speak for Mr. Hunter or Mr. Fowler. I don’t know their intentions when the project returns for final approval, but I hope that both men will give ample consideration to our own ordinances before making their decision, and will consider all of the facets of this issue, for and against, as will I. In the meantime, I urge all residents of not only Richmond Hill, but also Bryan County, to voice their thoughts to their elected representatives regarding Plantation Village.
By the way, I have worked with Mr. Croy in local political party functions for many years. In all of the times we have worked together, he has always been a stand-up guy. I also realize that Mr. Croy and his partners are simply businessmen trying to develop their property. But many residents have legitimate concerns regarding this project, and before a decision is made by the council, they should and will be given the opportunity to express them.
Carpenter is a council member for Richmond Hill. He can be reached at email@example.com.