Planning Board OKs Requests for Corporate Park
The board voted last Wednesday to recommend that the Town Council approve a rezoning request, a conditional-use permit and an ordinance amendment to allow greenway trails instead of sidewalks in the proposed 105-acre manufacturing and business park. The site is bounded by North May Street, Yadkin Road and extends over to U.S. 1.
The council will hold its own public hearings before voting on the items.
Bob Baillie of RAB Investments wasn't present at the public hearing to answer numerous questions that arose.
He plans to develop an 18-lot manufacturing and business subdivision. He will sell or lease buildings and lots to businesses that will employ 50 to 200 workers. The property is already zoned Industrial.
RAB Investments has asked the town to rezone five acres to General Business to allow a restaurant and a day care center.
Kathy Szyja, who represented RAB Investments at the meeting, assured board members that a proposed restaurant and day care center are intended to serve the corporate park and not the general public.
Baillie told The Pilot in an earlier interview that a nature trail, wooded areas and nearby wetlands would be available for public use. Questions were raised about who will maintain these trails and the wetlands. While the property owners in the corporate park will be responsible for maintaining those areas, Baillie has had a contact with a local land trust about preserving open space and wetlands in perpetuity.
State and federal authorities can levy fines if someone violates strict rules about construction near wetlands that could hurt water quality, particularly in this watershed area, Planning Board member Tom Marsh suggested.
Southern Pines requires that developments be annexed if they request water and sewer service from the town. The property is in the town's zoning jurisdiction, but not in the city limits, according to Planning Director Bart Nuckols.
Board Chairman Chris Arnold wanted to know if the development would put a strain on the town's water and sewer system.
Town Councilman Fred Walden, who was in the audience, said the town has plans to impound water from Drowning Creek south of Pinebluff where its water treatment plant is located. He said the town also has a 20-million-gallon reserve at the treatment plant.
Corneal Sciences, an eye drop manufacturer, has purchased one of the lots in the park. The company is expanding its operation to Southern Pines from its headquarters in South Dakota.
Baillie is renovating a vacant former printing building near North May Street and West Yadkin Road for Corneal.
"It's a worthwhile project to go forward," Arnold said after considerable debate and questions from board members and the audience.
Several nearby property owners came to the meeting to question the project because of boundary disputes between Baillie and a church on Yadkin Road next to the printing building.
Walden's brother, Robert Walden, told the board that the property line of the proposed corporate park goes through Victory Chapel property. Walden said he sold the site to Victory Church years ago and helped the 100-year-old congregation move to the site in the 1970s.
The developers plan to ensure that church will continue as it is, said Chris Joyner of the O'Connor Construction company.
Carl Hill, another nearby property owner, also raised questions about the boundary of the proposed park.
The board voted unanimously to recommend that the council approve a conditional-use permit with a number of conditions. Those include requiring that an environmental impact assessment be submitted for the wetlands and wooded property, that the back of buildings visible from North May Street be screened from view and that the developer provide information on town zoning regulations to businesses that buy or lease lots or buildings.
The board also recommend approval of amending the zoning ordinance to allow greenway trails instead of sidewalks except in the General Business zoned lots, which would require sidewalks.
Board member Elizabeth Whitmore asked that action be delayed because a site plan was not submitted, which would show more details she wanted to know, including the actual boundaries. She said the ordinance requires that a site plan be submitted with the application.
Nuckols said the council had been flexible through the years in handling required documentation on a schedule.
The project is part of a designated 'development area" under the state Department of Commerce designed to encourage new businesses as well as existing businesses to create new jobs and expand the local tax base for areas in need.
Baillie's "intentions are good," board member Abigail Dowd said. But she noted that he signed a petition submitted by a large number of business owners and leaders a few months ago criticizing the Town Council for "micromanaging" growth and development.
Arnold added he understood successful marketing of the planned subdivision depends on certain town zoning and development permits being in place first.
"The lack of specifics on the development of this site is troubling," he admitted.
Whitmore and Dowd voted in a losing minority to deny the request for rezoning since much information was lacking. The other four members voted in favor.
Sara Lindau can be reached at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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