Shopping Center Permit Approved
The Whispering Pines Village Council on Wednesday finally approved a conditional-use permit for a long-planned shopping center on N.C. 22.
Charlotte-based JDH Capital has proposed building the "Shops at Whispering Pines" near the intersection of N.C. 22 and Rays Bridge Road.
The council also approved a conditional-use permit for the Fortaleza Group, which plans to renovate the old Matthews Market on Vass- Carthage Road into a community convenience store.
Both permits were approved by 4-0 votes. Council member Molly Boggis was unable to attend the meeting, but she prepared a list of her concerns that council member Randy Saunders shared.
The permit approval for the "Shops at Whispering Pines" is the culmination of a long process for JDH that began in late 2006. Representatives from the firm had expressed concern over the length of the process at previous council meetings, arguing that prolonged delays could jeopardize the project.
Saunders said that while the process did take time, it was necessary because of the magnitude of the project.
"Yes, it was a lengthy process," Saunders said. "But [the council] has taken some careful steps in the past year and a half."
The council imposed a number of conditions on both developments. Those include submitting lighting and landscaping plans for review. According to Village Attorney Mike Brough, the council may have to hold a quasi-judicial hearing to approve those plans.
The council reviewed the conditions for both projects and made some amendments before voting to approve the permits.
Mayor Bob Zschoche said he had some reservations about allowing the use of lighted vending machines outside the proposed JDH shopping center, fearing that the bright advertisements on the front of the machines would create a nuisance. However, that condition was withdrawn.
"Frankly, this is not a Frank Lloyd Wright museum of modern art we're building here," council member Skip Gebhardt said. "This will be a valuable service to the community."
Whether or not to allow outdoor vending at both developments had been debated at past meetings.
The developers of the Matthews Market project said at a public hearing last month that they wanted to have family-oriented activities outside, such as pumpkin carving and Christmas tree sales.
Gebhardt said he wants certain vendors to be allowed at the developments, such as the Girl Scouts and charitable organizations. The council decided it would develop a case-by-case permitting process for vendors to sell items at these locations.
Both approvals were greeted with applause from the audience.
During the public-comment section of the meeting, residents living in the Highland Drive neighborhood asked for the council's support.
About 14 homes on and near that street are within the runway protection zone for runway 23 at Moore County Airport. There has been some question over whether or not those homeowners will be subject to eminent domain as a result of the airport's 1996 Master Plan.
Members of the Moore County Airport Authority have stated in the past there are no plans to purchase those homes, but residents are concerned because no one has put that in writing.
"We are faced with possible eminent domain due to the 1996 Master Plan," Lu Navarro said, adding that he and his wife had no idea about the airport's plan when they moved into their home. "We ask the council, the village manager and the village attorney to act on our behalf. When can you begin to help us?"
Other residents echoed Navarro's concerns. Other also questioned whether that would hurt their ability to sell their homes.
Public Hearings Set
The council set two public hearings for the Aug. 27 regular meeting.
One is on a proposed amendment to the airport ordinance, setting conditions for the construction of the new hangars. The amendment has been submitted to the Planning Board for review, and the council assured members of the audience that the public will have all of the information on the measure before the hearing is conducted.
The other hearing will be on a proposed amendment to the landscaping requirements in the Highway Overlay District.
At the beginning of the meeting, Steve DeBolt, Whispering Pines' first village manager, was formally welcomed by Zschoche and the council. Zschoche called a short recess to allow residents in the audience to talk to DeBolt informally. He said that while the transition to a village manager form of government will be a challenge, the council is thrilled to have DeBolt here.
"[DeBolt] is eminently qualified for the job," Zschoche said. "We are happy to have him."
Contact John Krahnert at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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