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Posted on: May 24, 2019

The Future of Richmond Hill: Town Centre (51 Acres)

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Town Centre – Purchased for Future Growth, Community Connectivity

Following an extensive search for a large tract of land centrally located within city limits that was able to be developed, the Richmond Hill City Council voted on the purchase of a 51-acre parcel of property (now known as Town Centre) in October 2015 from Plantation Village Partners, LLC and John A. Murphy and Leslie Murphy, LLC. The land, located directly across the Cherry Hill entrance to the Ford Plantation and purchased well below market value, will allow city leaders to position Richmond Hill for future growth and boost quality of life initiatives for area residents by extending services for park space and increasing connectivity to neighborhoods.

“We were looking for a large parcel of land -- 20 acres or more -- that was able to be developed. This was one of the few that met our criteria and is located geographically in the heart of town,” said Mayor Russ Carpenter. “The primary purpose of the land is to create a downtown area, build a park similar to Savannah’s Forsyth Park, and provide connectivity from the adjacent neighborhoods.”

The City of Richmond Hill has launched a number of projects aimed at improving citizens’ quality of life over the past couple of years, including a system of sidewalks connecting neighborhoods to schools, parks and retail establishments; the beautification of the crossroads intersection of state road 25 (US 17) and state road 144; and the future addition of underground power lines. 

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.  The City worked with a Master Plan Advisory Committee back in 2015/2016 to design and program the elements and functions of the 51-acre property. This Committee was composed of a wide array of community members including residents, business owners, library board, Bryan County commissioners and staff, Chamber of Commerce, City Council and City staff. 

The Committee helped the City in systematically walking down the path to plan something we can all be proud to have in our community. This property is not for sale and not intended for commercial development.  It is intended to be used as a park and civic space as indicated on the Master Plans (see links).

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 over $3.2 million with the infrastructure. This means that, from the moment the property was purchased for under $1.1 million until the time the infrastructure costs become reality, the City will maintain $1 million in equity on the property.  The only reoccurring expense relates to maintenance activities for landscaping, grass mowing and stormwater management along Town Centre Drive typical to any city street.

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 critical infrastructure for utilities and access have been completed.  The next step in the development of the City’s Town Centre property will be related to the new Bryan County Library at the location indicated on the plan.  The City and Bryan County are partnering and currently finalizing agreements for the development of the library.  The right-in/right-out entrance to the future roadway to the library site off of Highway 144 will be the City’s next step in our portion of the partnership.

The only portion of the City’s property that has been cleared is at the location of the future library and the future roadway to the library.  The property adjacent to the City is privately owned and has been cleared by the private property owner unrelated to the City’s land.  The minimal clearing for the future library site and future roadway to the library site on the City’s property was completed by Sands Logging.  Sands Logging paid the City for the timber harvested in the amount of $7,100.

Please continue to check this “Future of Richmond Hill” page for updates on the Town Centre property along with more in-depth features on other areas of the City.

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