Board Votes Down Change in Zoning
The Pinehurst Planning and Zoning Board is recommending that the Village Council not approve zoning changes designed to limit offices in the downtown.
The board, after holding public hearings, recommended that the council reject one amendment that would prohibit additional offices and financial institutions from being located on the ground floor in the village core, as well as one that would prohibit a nonconforming office use within the village core district after it has ceased operation.
The board recommended approval of a third measure dealing with fencing.
"This is one of the more difficult situations the Planning and Zoning Board has faced," board chairman Art Chalker said in a phone interview. "There were a lot of good and emotional feelings [on the issue]. We felt it was the council's decision. Hopefully it is foreseen by the greatest number of people as fair."
The text changes are designed to encourage more retail shops in the village's downtown area.
If approved, the first change would add banks and financial institutions to the list of offices that are prohibited on the ground floor "of the principal building" in any circumstance. The current ordinance says offices can be located on the ground floor as long as the ground floor "is occupied by at least 50 percent retail uses in frontage and area." That clause would be removed under the proposed change.
Banks and financial institutions currently located on the ground floor would be grandfathered and would not be affected.
The second change would eliminate a 120-day period in which a nonconforming use can be discontinued and re-established. If approved, it will be changed to read: "Any cessation in use shall result in the discontinuation of that use and the space may only be reoccupied by a conforming use."
The text amendments have been a hotly debated issue in the village.
Property owners have complained that their rights are being violated because the village is dictating what tenants they can or cannot lease to. Many business owners, however, believe the village core has been overrun by banks and offices and that more retail is desperately needed.
At a Planning and Zoning Board hearing on the issue in September, members of the audience was split evenly.
Deborah Myatt, who owns Le Faux Chateau in Pinehurst, said in an interview that she was disappointed the board did not recommend the text amendments.
"I think they're playing it safe," Myatt said. "I'm hoping the council will be a little more progressive and visionary."
Myatt said the village needs other attractions for visitors. Not having adequate retail in the downtown could have long-term negative implications.
"It's so difficult to get [to Pinehurst], that once we get people here, they should be wowed and they should be dazzled," she said.
Rick Phillips, owner of Village Properties in Pinehurst, echoed the sentiments of many property owners who don't want to be told what tenants they can have in their buildings.
"For people who have no investment to make, decisions for other people is pretty bad," Phillips said. "For the village to dictate what should go into a building or not is just wrong."
Phillips said it would be close to impossible to transform his building to accommodate retail stores. He argued that the number of stores and offices in the village has not changed very much in the 30 years he has been there. He said being required to rent exclusively to retailers could cause his property to sit vacant for months if no tenants are interested.
"I find that to be ridiculous," Phillips said.
Because it is only an advisory body, the Planning and Zoning Board can only make recommendations to the council. The council is expected to consider the issue at its meeting at 1 p.m. Nov. 18.
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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