S.P. Council Hears From Both Sides on PUD
A crowd packed the Douglas Center Tuesday night, many of its members wearing stickers on their chests with the letters "PUD" and a line through them.
But by the time the Town Council got around to holding its public hearing on the proposed Planned Unit Development (PUD) ordinance, the throng had dwindled to about half its original size.
That's because the council chose to move up a public hearing on a proposed zoning change requested by a developer who wants to put a shopping center and mixed-use development between Morganton Road and U.S. 15-501. (The Pilot will have more about that hearing in Friday's edition.)
The public hearing on that development pushed the meeting past 9 p.m. before the audience had a chance to have its say on the PUD ordinance.
Members of the council said they decided to move up the hearing on the zoning change so that the public would have a chance to have its say during both hearings, thinking that most in the audience would leave after the PUD hearing.
Adding to the audience's frustration was the fact that the microphones barely worked and audience members often yelled at speakers to speak louder.
Though it seemed that the majority of those in the audience were against the PUD ordinance, several spoke in favor of it -- or of a similar plan to control growth.
The hearing began with Lane Gardner from Hines, the project manager for the proposed $400 million Pine Needles Village development that hopes to take advantage of a PUD rezoning, giving a presentation on the ordinance.
"The ordinance does not approve any type of project," he said. "It's simply a tool."
Gardner said that a PUD zoning would give the town more regulation and higher standards. Many towns across the country have adopted a PUD ordinance, he said.
He pointed out that the Planning Board has already recommended approval and that an outside consultant hired by the town, Clarion Associates, has examined the ordinance.
"It's a better tool to manage growth," Gardner said. "It helps you ensure that the growth that is coming your way is smart growth with more open space and is anti-sprawl."
The PUD ordinance requires 20 percent open space, 5 percent of which must be green space. The current zoning requires only 5 percent open space.
The PUD ordinance also requires the developer to provide studies of traffic impact and water and sewer up front prior to approval, Gardner said. It requires a statement of intent and detailed standards about lot sizes and setbacks.
"A tremendous amount of detail is required up front from the applicant," he said.
He ended by telling the council about other expressions of support for the PUD ordinance, quoting Clarion, Landscaping firm owner Robert Hayter, and an editorial in The Pilot. He handed each council member a packet of 50 letters in favor of the PUD ordinance.
'A Vital Tool'
Mayor Frank Quis asked that those who were in favor of PUD take the microphone first.
Most who spoke in favor of the ordinance said growth was inevitable and this would be a good way for the town to manage it.
Ray Ogden, president and CEO of Partners in Progress, said he was in favor of the PUD and Pine Needles Village because of the opportunity it offered to create additional office space.
"This will allow the town more input into how large tracts of land are developed," he said.
Some of those in favor of the PUD said they understood the concerns of those against it who are worried that Southern Pines will become just like any other town.
"Growth is coming," said Rhonda O'Brien. "This will help the town maintain its small-town charm. I think a lot of people here are concerned about it becoming another Cary."
Scott Bolton, an architect who has worked on Fort Bragg, said he's seen the effort being undertaken to prepare for the growth of that base called for by the Base Realignment and Closing Commission (BRAC). The BRAC expansion is expected to impact Moore County heavily.
"I know the growth is coming," he said. "I applaud this as a vital tool for our development."
David Osborne said that he favored PUD but that he was glad there was so much passion in the room. He reminded the council to stay on the topic of the PUD ordinance and not begin talking about Pine Needles Village.
Attorney John May, who represents the developer of Pine Needles Village, said the town should at least give itself the option of providing developments with a PUD.
"It's strange to me why you would not equip the town with the ability to deal with the complexity (of growth)," he said. "Whether you adopt this has very little to do with whether this town grows or not. It could have a lot to do with the quality."
'Don't Have to Grow'
Jeffrey Mims got the anti-PUD crowd started by giving a satirical speech pretending to be in favor of the PUD. Many of his punch lines were met with applause, which Quis repeatedly asked the audience to refrain from.
He mentioned that the ordinance has been crafted by Hines, a massive development company out of Houston.
"If you trust developers to enhance our quality of life," he said, "and I know some of you would, then adopt a PUD now."
Nancy Moore took exception to the commonly accepted statement that growth was inevitable.
"No one says you have to grow," she said. "You don't have to grow."
'Keep Me Out'
Councilman Fred Walden asked Planning Director Bart Nuckols to tell the audience what the current zoning would allow at the site of the proposed Pine Needles Village.
Nuckols said it would allow a housing development with no density requirements at all. It would also allow manufacturing, office space, restaurants or medical facilities.
Greg Zywocinski spoke against the PUD zoning. He called it hypocrisy that the town voted down a proposal to allow development of six lots on Midland Road to protect it, while the Pine Needles Village may bring 1,200 residential lots.
Adopting a PUD amounts to asking developers like Hines to come and build in Southern Pines, he said.
"This will usher in larger-scale development," he said. "This is a small town. That's what we want to maintain."
Many speakers brought up Cary and Chapel Hill as cautionary tales against allowing PUDs.
"Do we want to be like Cary and Chapel Hill?" Zywocinski asked. "I think not."
He cited the Clarion study of the PUD ordinance, taking what Clarion believed was a positive statement and turning it into a negative one.
"Clarion said, 'If Southern Pines adopted a PUD, it would be in the vanguard of new urbanism,'" Zywocinski said. "Well, keep me out. I want to be in the vanguard of keeping Southern Pines a small town."
'Don't Go There'
Local attorney Marsh Smith urged the town to adopt a moratorium on growth until it can take another look at its Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), update its comprehensive land use plan and hire another planner to help Nuckols.
Smith's main worry, though, was that the possible development would threaten the high-quality water designations of Mill Creek and McDeeds Creek and use up all of the super-density allotments.
"You're either sacrificing your downtown or you are sacrificing your water quality," he said. "I hope you don't go there."
Matthew Moriarty can be reached at 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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