Group Opposes Rezoning
BY FLORENCE GILKESON
Save Our Sandhills (SOS) is predicting "dire environmental consequences" if MHK Ventures succeeds with its Pine Forest subdivision at West End.
In a two-page news release this week, SOS charges that the major subdivision would damage wetlands and wildlife habitat, jeopardize the longleaf pine ecosystem and "destroy the small-town vision of the Moore County Land-Use Plan."
The target of the environmental nonprofit organization is a residential-resort development planned on 1,799 acres stretching from N.C. 211 toward N.C. 73. It will have 710 residential units, two championship golf courses, a nine-hole course and a retail development.
MHK Ventures is also the developer of the adjacent Dormie Club subdivision on N.C. 73, where work is already under way.
Owner/developer Bob Hansen said Tuesday that he will respond to the SOS allegations at the Dec. 10 meeting of the Moore County Planning Board, which will be continuing a public hearing begun at the November meeting.
The subject of the hearing is the developer's application for rezoning 1,652 acres from various residential-agricultural zoning districts to a hamlet-style Planned Unit Development, a district that allows mixed uses with clustering to meet desired density restrictions. The planning board tabled a decision on the request and continued the hearing until December.
On rezoning matters, the board votes on a recommendation, which is forwarded to the Moore County Board of Commissioners for another hearing and a final decision.
Robert Koontz, a staff member of the Hobbs, Upchurch & Associates engineering firm, said Pine Forest is being designed in accordance with the Small Area A Plan. Koontz is handling the planning design for MHK, and Fred Hobbs, senior partner in the engineering firm, is overseeing the utilities for Pine Forest.
The Small Area A Plan, adopted by the county commissioners last year, is a mini-land-use plan focusing on a largely rural area encompassing West End, Seven Lakes, Eagle Springs, Jackson Springs, Lake Diamond and rural environs. It includes no municipalities.
The commissioners made some changes before adopting the Small Area A Plan. One change allows developers to designate some recreation areas toward the "open" space requirement in the zoning ordinance. The Small Area A Committee had wanted to restrict golf courses, playgrounds, parks and other recreation areas from designation as "open," or unused, space.
SOS takes exception to this change and says the committee's request "was diminished for some reason by the county commissioners."
Koontz emphasized that the Pine Forest plan adheres closely to the Area A plan, including design of the golf courses. The developer said the design will retain as much of the natural setting as possible.
At the first community meeting in West End in September, Hansen said it was in his best interest "not to disturb that property." He also said that his firm had hired architects who are dedicated to preservation of the natural setting.
"Now golf courses can count as open 'natural' land," SOS said in the news release. "Forest in the wetlands will be cut to benefit golfers' views, and many crossings of the wetlands will be needed. The chemicals used for both lawns and golf courses will eventually also have disastrous consequences for humans and nature alike. This project is in Watershed 3, and the waterways, with their floodplains, are in jeopardy."
SOS also charges that the project could have a detrimental effect on the water supplies for the municipalities of Carthage and Whispering Pines because Nicks Creek runs through the middle of the Pine Forest property.
MHK Ventures introduced Pine Forest at two community meetings in West End in September and October. This was before the development corporation had officially applied for rezoning of the property. At those meetings, the developers revealed plans for two residential communities, one to be private and gated with its own championship golf course, and the other to offer residential lots along with a resort hotel and a neighborhood retail center. The project is to include a spa and conference center, fitness center and two clubhouses.
A feature is an on-site wastewater treatment plant to serve both Pine Forest and the neighboring Dormie Club development. MHK said the plant will treat wastewater to standards that permit reuse of the water for irrigation of golf courses, lawns and common areas in both subdivisions.
At the community meetings, the developer said arrangements are being made for an agreement with Moore County Public Works for the treatment of wastewater from the county system, a transaction that MHK says will also help with interbasin transfer issues. If that agreement is reached, up to half a million gallons would be redirected from a pump station near Pinehurst No. 8 to the new facility at Pine Forest.
The developer expects to provide water to Pine Forest from the county system using the connector line on N.C. 211 to Seven Lakes.
The SOS news release calls on supporters to attend the 6 p.m. Dec. 10 meeting at the historic courthouse in Carthage.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at (910) 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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