Session Provides Information on PUDs
From a town's perspective, a Planned Unit Development (PUD) usually means a higher-quality development, but less control.
From a developer's perspective, a PUD means greater flexibility, but more emphasis on architecture and preserving natural resources.
That's according to a presentation Tuesday by Clarion Associates of Chapel Hill at the Campbell House in Southern Pines.
Southern Pines hired the consulting firm to review a draft of a proposed PUD zoning district. The town Planning Board voted Feb. 15 to recommend that the elected Town Council approve the measure. The town decided to hold a public information session on a PUD.
Adopting the PUD ordinance is the first step toward allowing the Pine Needles Village, a proposed mixed-use development with more than 1,100 residential units, retail space and other possible uses on land between Camp Easter Road and U.S. 1.
If the Town Council approves the PUD ordinance, developers of Pine Needles Village would have to apply to the town to rezone the land. The rezoning would also include Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club. The Bell family owns Pine Needles and the land for the proposed mixed-use village.
Even though the Planning Board has spent several months discussing a PUD ordinance, many residents are still unclear about what exactly is a PUD.
The Tuesday meeting offered residents an opportunity to learn about a PUD and ask questions.
Craig Richardson, vice president of Clarion Associates, said that to understand a PUD one must first understand the origins of zoning.
Zoning began in America in earnest in the 1920s. It segregated land use and made sure that industrial uses would not be mixed with a residential area.
"It was really great for protecting neighborhoods," Richardson said, "but it was very inflexible."
In the 1960s, some communities began to realize that traditional zoning was too inflexible. Hilton Head Island, S.C., was one of the first communities to embrace PUDs, Richardson said.
A PUD requires a single owner and a master plan, he said. It allows flexibility with such things as setbacks, heights and uses. In return for that flexibility, the developer agrees to protect natural resources such as green space and lakes and streams and to produce a more aesthetically pleasing development.
"Expectations are that you are going to have a higher-quality development," Richardson said.
Chad Meadows, an associate for Clarion, said Cary, Chapel Hill and Franklin, Tenn., have PUDs, which are assets to the municipalities.
He said that controls and regulations on PUDs have evolved since the early days. Early PUDs had relatively little control but have grown to focus more on protection of green space, oversight of design and integration with the community.
More recently, PUDs pretty much start with submission of a general development and then goes through a negotiation process with the town.
"It lets you know what to expect without boxing a developer into something that may not be relevant a few years down the road," Meadows said.
The drawback to a PUD, he said, is that it creates a lot more work for municipal leaders and there is a level of uncertainty.
One member of the audience asked how a PUD defines and regulates use of open space, and questioned whether a developer would be able to count a golf course as open space.
Richardson replied that it is something that could be agreed upon during negotiations. Basically, open space is defined as either passive or active. Active open space can include things such as playgrounds and golf courses, Meadows said.
Members of the audience also asked Clarion representatives what they thought about the Pine Needles Village plan. Richardson answered that the town did not ask the company to review the plan. In general, Meadows said that the PUD ordinance seemed to have a moderate level of specificity.
Councilman Mike Haney asked if the retail area of a PUD would compete with a nearby downtown like Southern Pines.
Richardson said he believes that even in Chapel Hill where downtown is struggling, the downtown is still preferred by most shoppers. The problems in Chapel Hill stem from lack of parking and market forces, he said.
Mayor Frank Quis asked for some examples of when a town regretted approving a PUD.
"There are usually always things you would have done differently in any development," Richardson said. "I would suggest you take a close look at how you define open space and architectural detail."
Matthew Moriarty can be reached at 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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