Developer Seeks Density Increase
The developer of The Tradition of Old Town is proposing a plan to increase density and open space, slash prices of each unit and ultimately jump-start the the dormant project.
During the Village Council's September work session, developer Michael Doninger brought to council for discussion a plan that would increase the density of the townhouse project from 5.25 units per acre to 16.
In addition, he proposed increasing the open space in the development by constructing five building and selling some land to the village. The current unbuilt project sits on four acres in the Village Residential District on McCaskill Road near the Village Arboretum.
"We were just trying to put a round peg in a square hole," Doninger said of his previous idea for town houses priced near $900,000 that has been approved by the council.
He said the need to change the plan is one of simple economics.
"Basically, the things that are selling are in the $200,000 to $300,000 range," Doninger told the council during its September work session. "In order for us to be economically viable and start selling units at $300,000 or less, we need higher density."
He presented a preliminary plan that included five higher-density buildings that would give the village an option to buy a portion of the land that Donninger estimated to be about one acre at a cost of about $750,000.
He told council he has invested about $3 in the land and would sell it to the village for what he paid for it, based on the percentage the village would want to buy.
"I'm not marking it up," he said. "I'm not trying to make a killing here."
Mayor Ginsey Fallon said it was unlikely that the village would be in a position to buy the land, considering the tough economic climate.
"I'm not sure we can buy it," she said. "I don't think this is the economic time for us to be doing that. I would like to see what you could come up with, without expecting us to buy any land."
If the village opts not to buy the land, Doninger said he could add a sixth building.
Doninger provided the council with some basic designs and land plans that incorporated architectural elements from existing buildings in Old Town, like the Holly House and Magnolia Inn. There would be indoor or underground parking spaces and no porches.
"This is just a concept," he said. "It is all subject to further discussion."
Councilman Mark Parson asked about the footprint of the current proposal compared with what has been approved.
Doninger said that calculation has not been determined because the plan is preliminary.
"Certainly by taking out all the garages, I will be willing to bet you anything it is less," Donninger said.
In April, Doninger came to the Village Council with a request to to increase the maximum dwelling density in the Village Residential District from 5.25 units per acre to 6.75. The council voted 3-2 to deny the request.
Council members Doug Lapins, Joan Thurman and Nancy Fiorillo voted against the increase. Fiorillo was absent from the September work session, but the other two seemed open to the new proposal.
Lapins said it has always been his mantra with this project to trade open space for density and that he liked the current proposal.
Thurman said she would like some more details.
"I certainly think it has to go forward," she said. "It just can't sit there. That land is so unattractive and causes people to be commenting negatively all the time, so I think we really need to do something."
The Planning and Zoning Board will hold a special meeting at 4 p.m. Oct. 21 to conduct two public hearings. The first is to consider a text ammendment to the Pinehurst Development Ordinances regarding standards for Village Residential District. The proposed amendment is to increase the minimum amount of open space from the 35 percent to 50 percent and increase the maximum dwelling density from 5.25 to 16 units per acre.
The second is to consider a text amendment to the Pinehurst Development Ordinance to delete the requirement that site plans requiring a major special-use permit or Conditional-Use District rezoning be considered major site plans.
The applicant in both cases in the village of Pinehurst.
The original plan for Doninger's project, which was approved by the council in June 2008, called for 20 town houses, ranging in price from $1 million to $1.5 million.
Since that plan was approved, infrastructure was installed, but no buildings have been constructed. At times, the site has been overgrown and unsightly.
Each time Doninger has appeared before the council, he has cited the struggling economy and an inability to sell the town houses at the proposed prices as a reason for the request to increase the density.
"There is absolutely no doubt," Doninger said during September's meeting, "if we were granted the higher density that allows us to do this, we could begin building immediately."
Contact Tom Embrey at email@example.com.
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