Historic Commission Approves Village Chapel Project
After two days of discussion, the Pinehurst Historic Preservation Commission has issued a certificate of appropriateness (COA) for The Village Chapel's proposed learning center.
During a special called meeting Thursday, the commission voted 5-1 to issue the COA, with a condition that the village planning staff work with representatives from the church to revisit parking issues. Thursday's special meeting was the continuation of a hearing that began Sept. 30.
The Village Council approved issuing a major special-use permit in August after a holding a quasi-judicial hearing that took two days. The site plan must now go before the Planning and Zoning Board and the Village Council for approval.
"I think the chapel went out if its way to conform to the necessary requirements, and I cannot find any reason we should not approve what they have done," commission member Joyce Franke said before making a motion to approve the COA.
Her motion was amended by Carl Holstein to ask that the parking be revisited by the village planning staff. He expressed concern about the need for parking on the right side of the new building. He said the parking is not congruent with the rest of the buildings on the site.
Earlier in the meeting, Commissioner John Strickland voiced concerns over the asphalt parking in the front of the building. Strickland had asked that the chapel consider other materials for parking.
The Village Chapel agreed to look at the parking issues.
"We are willing to do that as long as it is approved by the building inspector and it does not compromise our special-use permit," said Dave Neill, attorney for The Village Chapel.
After Thursday's meeting, Neill called the process "one of the two or three most contentious" that he has ever been involved in.
The main issue that forced the commission to carry over the meeting to a second day was the question over whether or not the proposed project could endanger Pinehurst's Historic Land-mark status, which it received in 1996.
That issue cropped up because of a letter that was sent to Pinehurst Mayor Ginsey Fallon and the Village Council from Dan Scheidt, chief of the Cultural Resources Division, South-east Region of the National Park Service.
Sheidt's letter, dated Sept. 16, said the National Park Service is willing to work with the village on the preservation of its National Historic Landmark status, as well as its concern over how the project could adversely affect that status.
The village is currently on a watch list and could lose its landmark status if it does harm to the historic nature of the district.
On Thursday, Ellen Turco, of Circa Inc., a cultural resources consulting firm, told the commission that the landmark designation is "an honor for Pinehurst" and something that "everyone should want to keep.
"I certainly don't think the proposed addition you are looking at today is significant enough to have an [adverse] impact on your landmark status," she said.
In the earlier meeting, when the letter was discussed, Neill objected to entering the memo into the record, calling it "incompetent hearsay evidence."
Commission Vice Chairman Frank Thigpen upheld the objection, and the memo was not read into the record, sparking outcry from some of the residents in the audience who wanted to know what the memo stated.
The letter requests that construction plans for the proposed learning center be submitted to the National Park Service for review.
Patrick Duffy, who cast the lone dissenting vote on approval of the COA, made a motion during the meeting to send the construction plans for the project to the the National Park Service for their review. That motion failed.
The commission had been advised by staff and legal counsel that the action by another historic preservation agency at either the state or national level was not in their purview.
Commission Chairman Howard Warren had recused himself at the start of the hearing earlier in the week to avoid any perception of a conflict since he is a member of The Village Chapel.
Nancy Smith, another member of The Village Chapel, didn't recuse herself. She voted to approve the project.
Contact Tom Embrey at firstname.lastname@example.org
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