S.P. Board OK's Amendment on Mixed-Use Developments
The Southern Pines Town Council must now decide whether or not to approve a text amendment in the town's Planned Development (PD) district.
At its meeting Thursday, the Southern Pines Planning Board voted 4-1 to recommend a text amendment that clarifies language concerning what uses are permissible in the PD district. The vote came after the completion of a public hearing and board deliberation.
The amendment, submitted by Robert Koontz, director of land planning for Hobbs, Upchurch & Associates, seeks to reinstate commercial uses in the district, which were allowed prior to 2004, and to clarify language on residential development in the town's zoning ordinance to make it congruent with language concerning PD development in the town's Comprehensive Long Range Plan (CLRP).
The proposed amendment has seen more public interest recently because the zoning change could determine how the Pine Needles Village property, owned by the Peggy Kirk Bell family, develops in the future.
The property came under dispute a few years ago when the family, represented by Bell's son-in-law, Kelly Miller, who is also president and CEO of Pine Needles and Mid Pines golf resorts, proposed a mixed-use development project on the property. The town council ultimately voted down the proposal.
Miller has said that his family does not intend to submit a project similar to the one previously proposed.
The board approved the recommendation with conditions based on parcel size to ensure true mixed-use development and to address concerns raised during the public hearing about the town's potential loss of regulatory control over how PD districts are developed with the amendment.
The board decided to implement minimum acreage requirements based on a suggestion sent in the form of a letter from board member Sean Butler, who was unable to be at the meeting.
The board recommended that the amendment require only one use for parcels less than or equal to 10 acres.
For parcels greater than 10 acres, but less than or equal to 60 acres, a minimum of two uses is required, along with a stipulation that says a single use can occupy no more than 80 percent of the land.
Parcels greater than 60 acres, such as the Pine Needles parcel, require a minimum of three uses, along with a stipulation holding that a single use can occupy no more than 75 percent of the land. Any use on a property larger than 60 acres must be dedicated to a minimum of five acres.
For example, someone wishing to put a mixed-use project on a 100-acre property in the PD district would have to develop the project with a minimum of three property uses. Of those three, only a maximum of 75 acres can be set aside for a single use, while a minimum of five acres can be proposed for another required use, leaving a remainder of 20 acres for an additional separate use.
Though the use would not have to take up the maximum amount of acreage, and such a project would not be limited to only three uses, the regulations would ensure well-planned mixed-use developments in the board's view.
During the public hearing, local attorney Marsh Smith expressed concern about language in the amendment allowing developers to include potentially unusable land, such as floodplains and wetlands, when setting aside acreage for particular uses to meet zoning requirements.
He referenced the Pine Needles property, saying that the land has at least 100 acres of wetlands that could potentially be set aside for a "throwaway use" just for the sake of checking off a box on a form.
Board member Elizabeth Lyerly asked if wetland areas could be considered recreational uses if a developer created trails, put up signage and created outlooks for observing wildlife just to meet the town's requirements.
Koontz countered saying that floodplains and wetlands can be utilized efficiently in more ways with the right planning.
He said he has seen a floodplain developed into an amphitheater in a project he is working on outside of Moore County. He also added that wetlands are often used as corridors on golf courses.
Planning Director Bart Nuckols said town staff did not restrict the language to just usable land because it thought that was too severe and could potentially inhibit development on some parcels.
The board also changed the wording in an amended section to say that low-density in PD areas designated by the future land use plan shall be developed as strictly residential if the planning board recommends the measure and the town council approves it.
The board also added multi-family residential use into language concerning residential development at its last meeting.
The amendment already listed residential use with the same density, minimum lot size and building setback regulations as the RM-2 residential district.
The RM-2 district permits a minimum of 10,000-square-foot lots. Additional units must be a minimum of 6,000 square feet for multi-family use.
The ordinance's table of permissible uses currently allows planned residential development as a conditional use, but the ordinance does not specify what types of residential development may occur.
The amendment would allow certain commercial uses in the PD district through conditional uses as well. Other commercial uses are allowed based on the town's future land use map
Joan Strawson was the only board member to vote against the amendment. She said before the vote that though she supported the spirit of the text amendment, which promotes true mixed-use development in the PD district, she did not think the board should vote on numbers "pulled out of the air."
"I think we should spend a little bit of time looking at it written out," she said. "Doing it on the fly doesn't give it the consideration that it needs."
Other members said that the numbers were being validated by people who understand long-range planning - Nuckols and Koontz.
Koontz told the board that he believed the new acreage conditions were reasonable.
Contact Hannah Sharpe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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