Outside Study Requested on PUD Proposal
The Southern Pines planning board unanimously agreed Wednesday night to table developers' application for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) ordinance, to allow an independent consultant to work on it.
The agreement came at the end of a three-hour public hearing on the draft PUD amendment to the zoning ordinance.
The developers of Pine Needles Village have asked the town to create PUD zoning category to accommodate large master-planned, mixed-use projects that would be developed in stages over many years.
Southern Pines Town Manager Reagan Parsons issued a statement the next day regarding the Planning Board's action. It says:
"The town recognizes the planning and zoning commission's efforts to formulate the best possible PUD ordinance for the future of Southern Pines. In fairness to board members, applicants and concerned citizens, and in recognition of the many hours and evenings they have dedicated to this process, we intend to move forward with a third-party professional review of the proposed language.
"It is our desire that the review be accomplished in a timely manner, thus allowing the Planning and Zoning Board to forward a recommendation to Town Council for a public hearing and their consideration in the near future."
The existing Southern Pines ordinance governing large mixed-use developments doesn't provide as much control for the council or the flexibility developers say they need to alter plans as market conditions change, say representatives of Hines, a Houston company hired to develop Pine Needles Village, and LandDesign Assoc-iates.
LandDesign has been working on a draft of a PUD ordinance since last summer. The company is also working for the developers of Pine Needles Village.
A majority of speakers at the hearing opposed the PUD measure. Some were undecided, such as Local Realtor Richard Dana and Bill Stockhausen, a retired Missouri city engineer. They were among those urging the town to come up with a long-range land development plan before allowing any developer to apply for approval under a PUD.
Stockhausen said he thought the town ought to advocate any changes to the development ordinances, which is not the case here.
Planning Board members said they weren't ready to vote on the PUD ordinance after the hearing. But board member Elizabeth Whitmore said it appeared as if there was no point in holding further work sessions with LandDesign Associates.
She joined others who want the town to hire an independent consultant to go over the draft of the PUD draft ordinance, which works for the town instead of a developer.
Critics of the process had suggested that the town should not rely on LandDesign
"Applicants have heard these comments over and over," Whitmore said. "I agree with getting an independent consultant to look at it...no one has told us anything."
The Bell family owns the land for the proposed Pine Needles Village. The family also owns Pine Needles and Mid Pines golf resorts.
The developers have asked the town to create a PUD district and then to rezone nearly 1,000 acres -- including the existing golf resorts -- between U.S. 1 and Camp Easter Road to the new category. The plan calls for as many as 1,100 residential units along with commercial areas.
The developers agreed several months ago to withdraw the rezoning request until the town approves a PUD zoning district.
A PUD category, if enacted, would become a part of the zoning ordinance and apply to the entire town, not just Pine Needles Village, town leaders have said.
"We have to strike a balance between having an ordinance so strict that no developer would want to touch it and protecting private property rights to develop one's own land," Chairman Chris Arnold said. "I want to request money (from the Southern Pines Town Council) to bring in an outside consultant to help us.
"In the short run, let's deal with the PUD ordinance and get an outside consultant to look at it and recommend to Southern Pines what it would want to do."
Arnold added that the town could then have the land development plan, which was done in 1988, updated "to cope with growth in the next 10 to 15 years."
Whitmore and some residents said they were unaware the town even had a land development plan.
Elizabeth Coleman, a recent newcomer to Southern Pines who has become active in organizing an independent public forum sponsored by the Southern Pines Neighborhood Association last week, referred to documents dating back to the mid-1950s to show from previous council meeting minutes that the Planning Board was authorized to be proactive and do long-term planning to help protect the town from detrimental development.
She also pointed out that state law enables municipalities to declare moratoriums on development to allow time to prepare long-term vision plans for town development. She recommended the board push the Town Council to impose a moratorium, allowing 18 months or so to develop an up-to-date plan, to prevent unwanted or harmful development from occurring.
Councilman Chris Smithson said during the meeting that for the past 20 years, Southern Pines has allowed large, mixed-use developments -- golf residential communities. The National on Midland Road also was approved with a "commercial" component, he said.
Whitmore and Coleman urged that the public should have input on any master plan and also participate in any future work sessions between the Planning Board and the consultant on the PUD ordinance.
Sara Lindau can be reached at 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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