PUD Wins Board's Approval
The Southern Pines Planning Board voted 4-2 Thursday to recommend approval of a new draft of a Planned Unit Development Ordinance (PUD) presented by LandDesign Associates.
The recommendation goes to the Town Council, which will have the final say. The council could hold a public hearing at its March 13 meeting.
LandDesign works for the developers of the proposed Pine Needles Village, which would have more than 1,100 residential units, retail business and other uses on land between Camp Easter Road and U.S. 1. The developers asked the town to create a PUD ordinance and then to rezone its property, which is owned by the Bell family, to the new category. The rezoning would include the existing Pine Needles resort, which the Bell family owns.
The developers put the rezoning request on hold to give the town time to craft a PUD, which is geared to large projects that are built in stages over many years.
Planning Board Chairman Chris Arnold, Tom Marsh, Archie Morrison and Marshall Glass voted in favor of the proposal. Elizabeth Whitmore and Abigail Dowd voted against. Board member John McInerney did not attend the meeting but sent a statement, Dowd read, opposing the proposal because it does not allow for Planning Board review of incremental plans.
The proposed ordinance approved by the board requires that the elected Town Council review incremental plans and hold public hearings on them before voting.
A motion by Whitmore to reject the proposal failed by the same 4-2 vote.
If the council approves the PUD ordinance, developers would then have to apply to the town to rezone land to the new category, which requires public hearings by the Planning Board and Town Council.
The proposal from LandDesign incorporated suggestions from Clarion Associates of Chapel Hill, a consulting firm hired by the town to review the draft PUD, and Town Manager Reagan Parsons, as well as input from members of the board.
The Planning Board has held a public hearing. It continued discussions on the proposal over the course of two meetings, the last being Jan. 18.
Members of the audience were not allowed to speak during the meeting Thursday, though Mayor Frank Quis addressed the board, urging it to vote on the PUD ordinance.
Clarion Associates gave the proposed PUD ordinance a clean bill of health, with some tweaking. Dowd said the changes were not available for public input before the board voted. But town leaders said the draft had been available on the town's Web site (www.southernpines.net) for several days. A copy of the proposed ordinance, dated Jan. 31, can be viewed on the Web site.
Some critics have expressed concerns that LandDesign works for the developers of a proposed Pine Needles Village, saying that it has a conflict of interest in crafting the enabling ordinance. The PUD ordinance would apply in all of the town's zoning jurisdiction.
The original draft did require the council to hold a public hearing on incremental plans. Whitmore proposed that the draft include a requirement for the council to hold public hearings.
That was one of several changes she proposed, which the board agreed to include.
Another was to increase the open space requirement from 20 percent to 30 percent of the gross land area of a PUD, and that half of that be preserved as useable open space (not wetlands).
The board also agreed to recommend that the council create a second planner position and a second administrative assistant position on the grounds that town growth and management ordinances require more staff.
"A majority of us at the table don't oppose a PUD regulation being adopted," Whitmore said. "I am passionate about certain parts of it that should be addressed. I hope the rest of my motion will go to the Town Council and that it will be incorporated into the PUD ordinance, which will improve it."
"I openly, publicly support the PUD," said Marsh, who made the motion for approval. "It's another tool to control growth. It's extremely difficult to prevent growth, which will happen. Wherever PUDs may be located, this will allow control of growth .... commercial won't be spreading beyond the downtown Southern Pines."
Kelly Miller, president and CEO of Pine Needles, said the council must already have a public hearing at the start of any project because of the rezoning required. He said he doesn't think any more public hearings are necessary because there are enough restrictions governing incremental plans to protect the town from extreme departures from the original approved master plan.
"Obviously, we're pleased the Planning Board passed the PUD," Miller said in a telephone interview Friday. "Obviously its a lot of work for everybody. It's a great document. The Planning Board members worked hard. Land Design, the Clarion consultants worked hard. We look forward to the next stage of working with the town on the ordinance."
He represents the Bell family, which owns the 1,000 acres they plan to develop.
The Bells, Miller and Hines real estate development firm of Houston are the investors in Pine Needles Land Co..
Pine Needles developers have already held neighborhood meetings with nearby property owners, including Belle Meade and others, without being required to do so. The draft ordinance requires that developers hold neighborhood meetings to explain their plans and that a written summary be submitted to town officials for PUD applications.
"A PUD is more about process than it is about a final product," Parsons said in a Friday telephone interview. "PUD is really conceptual planning done up front on developments of tracts with more than one use, compared to zoning property for a narrower set of uses permitted by right."
A special public information meeting on the PUD ordinance is set for Tuesday, Feb. 20, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., at the Train House on the Campbell House grounds off East Connecticut Avenue. Clarion representatives will be present to explain the proposal and answer questions, Arnold announced Thursday.
Sara Lindau can be reached at 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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