Moratorium Talk Worries Developers
With a possible moratorium on the agenda, the Southern Pines Town Council found itself talking development Monday.
After the council voted down the Pine Needles Village rezoning and talk began about a moratorium, Southern Pines has gained a reputation of being anti-growth, said several developers who attended Monday's council work session.
Developers of a proposed shopping center on N.C. 22 and the owners of land in the Morganton Road Overlay District both were on hand to try to figure out what the council might find acceptable.
"The town appears to have been stamped anti-development," said Tom Van Camp, one of the owners of the Morganton Road property. "When I first moved here, it was Pinehurst where people said you couldn't do anything without a permit. Now it's kind of flip-flopped."
Bob Klug of Pinehurst Area Realty and Steve Vermillion of the Carolina Group presented a plan for a Harris Teeter shopping center at the intersection of the current N.C. 22 and Airport Road. They spoke on behalf of Mill Creek Partners, the development company. Though it is in Southern Pines, most of the customers would probably come from Whispering Pines.
The plan was on the agenda for preliminary architecture review. It calls for a Harris Teeter as the anchor store and 10 other buildings, six of which will probably be shops. The four others would likely be restaurants or banks.
The idea is to be a neighborhood shopping center, Klug said. The developers asked the council for some guidance. Most of the council members seemed to like the plan.
"It's certainly in the right direction," Councilman Chris Smithson said. "It seems like a pretty good effort."
The land is already zoned for such a development. The council will likely see only this project for architectural review. Vermillion said that the goal is to have the shopping center opened at the same time as the N.C. 22 realignment is completed.
"Good news for Whispering Pines," Councilman David Woodruff said.
Smithson said, "Good news for us. It keeps them all in there instead of driving to Southern Pines."
The owners of 130 acres along Morganton Road, a tract of land considered by many to be the most desirable spot for large retail left in Southern Pines, asked the council what it wanted there.
The land is within the Morganton Road Overlay District, adopted in the mid-1990s. The landowners complained that the reason the property hasn't been developed is because the zoning is so restrictive.
"I'm against big development," Van Camp said. "I love trees. I'm in favor of a reasonable approach to developing this property. I'm not in favor of building something that will yield me the most dollars."
The property has been under contract five times in the 23 years since his parents bought it, and each time the development failed. Most recently, Developers Diversified Realty (DDR) attempted to build a large shopping center there. It bogged down at the Town Council, and DDR pulled the plan.
Van Camp said Southern Pines needs some large-scale retail, such as a Target. He said the property owners needed a better idea what the council wants there before they go out and find another developer.
"This is a golden opportunity," Van Camp said. "You can make your mark as a council."
Councilman Fred Walden said he'd like to see them apply for Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning because it allows for residential and retail and puts a premium on open space and walkability. Smithson agreed.
"It's a longer process for you," Walden said, "but you may end up with a better development."
Woodruff said that his concern is that the plan is more sophisticated than the average big-box store.
"Do something nice," he said, "not the standard, highway version that would turn everybody off."
Council member Abigail Dowd said that she would like to get residents involved early in the process, to avoid a huge groundswell of opposition like what happened to the Pine Needles Village.
"The PUD process was a mess," she said. "Get the citizens involved."
Van Camp said that he was in favor of involving the public, but he reminded the council that the decision lies with it.
"It's ultimately the five of you who vote yea or nay," he said.
Susan Clift Brown of Clift Commercial said that if the council wants a high-quality development, it may have to trade off some density.
"It will take some give and take," she said.
The council did eventually take on the moratorium issue. It worked on getting the ordinance written prior to holding the public hearing March 11.
For it to be legally defensible, the council has to state the reasons for a moratorium, the steps it has taken to alleviate those problems and what it hopes to accomplish during the moratorium.
Council members struggled for hours on all the different aspects.
Mayor Mike Haney and Wald-en both oppose a moratorium.
"We're under a self-imposed moratorium," Haney said, "because we reject everything that comes through the door."
Dowd and Smithson want the council to update its 1988 land-use plan and create a comprehensive master plan.
"It seems like the trouble we're having is we're trying to fix something that's not broken," Walden said.
"Fred, you may look good and feel good but if you haven't been to the doctor for 20 years, you need a checkup," Smithson said.
Dowd said that the ordinance needs to start broad and can be made more specific following the public hearing.
Town Manager Reagan Parsons worked Tuesday to write up a draft of the ordinance and send it out to the council members and town attorney Doug Gill.
"Southern Pines has existed for 100 years without a master plan," Walden said. "Why is it so important now?"
"We hear over and over again that planning is important," Dowd said. "I can't see an argument against it."
Contact Matthew Moriarty at 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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