ABIGAIL DOWD: Caution Needed With PUD
To Mayor Frank Quis and members of the Southern Pines Town Council, Planning Board and staff:
Several of you were present at last week's Planning Board meeting and are already aware of the board's decision to work with Land Design and the Hines firm to revise the language submitted for a new Planned Unit Development district.
There were many public comments about this item alone, but unfortunately members of the board did not have the opportunity to speak after the closing of the public hearing. I would like to share with you my thoughts on the creation of a PUD district.
First, when I saw the reaction of the council to the Pine Needles development project at last month's work session, I was elated to see the support for well-planned development, including mixed uses, walkable communities, and a sense of place. After all, downtown Southern Pines is just that, and has remained so during a period when other towns have fallen victim to post-World War II zoning and poor planning choices.
Unfortunately, Southern Pines looks to be the next victim. Our town has not maintained its charming character because of good planning -- but because of good luck. However, now we have been discovered and our luck is running out.
Bob Koontz with Land Design stated at the Planning Board meeting that "adopting a PUD is an important step for Southern Pines."
I cannot disagree. But there is a step that must come first. Southern Pines does not have a master plan. We do not have a vision.
Our current Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) was adopted in 1989. At that time, it was a progressive document, but it is now outdated and unacceptable. When I have asked in the past, "What is the vision for Southern Pines?" the response is that the zoning map is our vision.
If that is true, then Leith and Elk Ridge are both examples of our vision. Have you ever heard someone from a city like Durham reminisce about what it was like 50 years ago? They speak so proudly of a town with character and life, and then lament the loss of that place. Without a master plan for Southern Pines, history suggests that we will be telling the same story.
Part of our master plan may well include a PUD district. However, to create one at this time is to hand the reins over to someone else's plan and vision.
It is a fact that a development such as the Pine Needles Village will have a very large impact on the character of Southern Pines. If we have not clearly defined our own vision and definition of that character, then we lose our chance.
Drafting and adopting a master plan could take years and a significant financial commitment, but that is no reason to avoid this responsibility. The cost of doing nothing will be greater.
I am very much aware that I may stand alone in opposition to creating a PUD district at this time. But please understand that I do so out of concern for both my hometown and the many other people -- whether natives or newcomers -- who care about this place. However this issue is determined, I will work with the Planning Board to find the best solution for Southern Pines.
Abigail Dowd is a member of the Southern Pines Planning Board.
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