NewCore Doubts Voiced at Meeting
A recent proposal to develop NewCore will "absolutely change the character of the village forever," said Pinehurst Councilman Jeff Dawson.
That proposal, which includes a grocery store, a drugstore and several other chain retail stores, was one that Dawson said he could not, and would not support.
"My jaw hit the floor," Dawson said, "When I saw NewCore was going to become a shopping center. I was stunned that it could be allowed."
Dawson expressed his opinion during a special meeting Tuesday. During that meeting the council discussed the development of NewCore and the mechanisms in place to control and shape that development. The council took no action during the meeting.
NewCore is the village's plan to ensure that the old service district north of the village center be developed in a manner in keeping with the overall character of the village. The 19-acre area, bounded by Rattlesnake Trail and Magnolia and McCaskill roads, now includes some businesses, some municipally owned lots including the public works complex, and some overgrown lots.
The village owns 6.9 acres in NewCore. The area is zoned in three categories: residential, mixed-use and cottage-professional.
The previous NewCore plan called for several pods of development. It mapped out where it wanted new roads and stated where the village wanted commercial, office and residential development. All those specifics have been taken out.
The changes grew out of some legal advice and some concerns expressed by council members. They felt the plan had to be more flexible to allow a quality development.
Before discussions Tuesday, the council listened to two presentations from the village staff. The first, given by Senior Planner Bruce Gould, dealt with the history of the project. The second, given by Planning and Zoning Director Andrea Correll, dealt with development options and what type of traffic those options would generate.
Correll told the council members they had two options to regulate the New Core area. They could keep the zoning as it is, or amend it, adding more specific requirements for development.
Former mayor Steve Smith told the council during the meeting that the current plan gives it "huge control" of how development occurs. Smith said, that aside from uses, the current zoning gives the council the "ability to put all sorts of conditions."
Those conditions, like regulating hours of operation and forbidding drive-through lanes, could help prevent unwanted businesses such as fast food restaurants in the area.
Dawson asked how much power the council had to control the development.
"Is it possible to control their (developers') ability to build formula stores," Dawson asked.
Correll told him there was no legal precedent, and that they could try, if he and the council wanted to "be a trendsetter."
Dawson and other council members have met in small groups to view a plan from Forum Development. Dawson said that type of big-box retail development proposed in the plan he saw was counter to the character of the village.
Dawson argued that the big-box retail wouldn't benefit Pinehurst residents.
"It is being built for everyone outside Pinehurst," he said. "All we are doing is walking our dogs and asking, 'Where is all this traffic coming from?'"
Correll reminded the council that retail carries the cost to put in needed infrastructure. He said small "mom and pop" retail businesses won't give the area the stability necessary.
She said the council still has the final say on how NewCore will develop, by limiting development through things like zoning and deed restriction, and how it developed was only limited by the council's threshold for development.
"The plan presented to me is way beyond my threshold," Dawson said.
Forum Development recently partnered with other local buyers to purchase the Razook's building for $2.9 million. The plan for that building calls for several first-floor businesses and office space on the second and third floors.
The council and staff seemed to agree that the village needed an economic shot in the arm.
Gould said several downtown area businesses have moved out, some relocating to Southern Pines.
"At this point in time, we don't have the magnetism to keep those stores in the village," Gould said.
Mayor George Lane called the village center "stagnant."
Council Member Virginia "Ginsey" Fallon agreed.
"The village needs a more vibrant center of town," she said, "and stores have to be interesting and affordable to our citizens."
The questions that council wrestled with concern what those stores are, how the council gets the development it feels is best for the citizens, and whether the village should be proactive or reactive.
Near the end of the two-hour discussion, Dawson suggested a proactive approach of sending out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to developers, telling them, "These are the rules. Paint us your picture."
Contact Tom Embrey at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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