Tuesday night is sure to bring a swarm of Richmond Hill residents to City Hall for the public hearing on the planned development known as Plantation Village. The hearing is at 6 p.m., just before the council’s regular meeting that starts at 7:30.
Developer Steve Croy has been before the council before regarding the 112-acre tract of Richmond Hill Village that fronts Hwy. 144 just past Timber Trail Road. But the current plans, which were approved 3-2 last month by the city’s Planning Commission, include about 85 single-family homes, 286 multifamily units (down from the 546 that was previously requested) and 248,000 square feet of commercial/professional space (up from the 220,000 feet previously requested). And unlike Croy was planning more than a year ago, the project will not seek government subsidies for affordable housing.
The project has garnered much scrutiny, mostly from the upscale and gated Ford Plantation community that lies across the highway from the subject property. Though many of its residents do not live full-time in Richmond Hill, the community’s board of directors has secured an attorney to oppose the development on behalf of the Ford Plantation.
At the top of the list of concerns seems to be a significant increase in traffic on Hwy. 144, as well as a significant increase in the population of school-age children – concerns Ford Plantation attorneys have argued roads and schools in Richmond Hill can’t handle.
But as Planning Commission Chairman Billy Albritton pointed out in the board’s August meeting – and something residents may be forgetting – is that traffic on Hwy. 144 is not the city’s problem, and other much larger developments have long been approved by the county and are currently in the works.
The best example is probably WaterWays Township located further south on Hwy. 144 that is boasting enough space for 3,000 homes. While it will be a while before all of those homes are completed, surely that community will bring as much traffic and children – if not more – to the same roads and schools.
And with the Bryan County Board of Education finishing one new school and setting sights on another for South Bryan, as well as the county and state’s plans to widen Hwy. 144, are officials not already planning for the future – which in Bryan County is likely to mean continued growth? Even the city of Richmond Hill’s plans to expand and upgrade its wastewater treatment facility from 1.5 million gallons per day to 4 million gallons per day is expected to handle not only the current capacity but also allow room for growth.
Ford Plantation attorneys have also argued that there is no need for multifamily housing, better known as apartments, in Richmond Hill. But Bryan County News readers seem to disagree. An online poll at bryancountynews.net asking “Are you in favor of the proposed Plantation Village along Hwy. 144 across from The Ford Plantation?” had 299 readers vote “Yes, the city needs more multifamily units. Not everyone can afford a house” while 210 readers voted “No, the roads and schools can’t handle the additional population.”
This newspaper has taken neither a pro nor con position on the planned development. However, we are against emotion-based decisions by local government leaders that can lead to costly litigation, lawsuits that taxpayers ultimately pay for.
Though the agenda for Tuesday’s Richmond Hill City Council meeting was not released by presstime, it is expected that the council will take up Croy’s request. Council members are likely hear a lot of comments from both sides of the fence during the public hearing. It is our hope the council can listen with open minds while still following the letter of its own laws to make a final decision.