Tyler's Ridge Put on Hold
The Tyler’s Ridge at Sandhills mixed-use development was put in a holding pattern late Tuesday by the Southern Pines Town Council.
After listening to more than three hours of testimony, the council called it quits right before midnight after unanimously voting to resume the hearing at its monthly meeting in March.
“There’s a lot going on here, it’s late and we need to draw the line,” council member Chris Smithson said. “I’d like time to review all of the information and prepare questions before we vote.”
Although council member Mike Fields and Mayor Mike Haney indicated that they would like to finish the public hearing, they agreed to Smithson’s suggestion.
“I, too, have questions for the applicant and others who have testified,” Haney said.
The Southern Pines Planning Board also listened to testimony over two monthly sessions before voting 4-2 on Jan. 20 to recommend that the council deny a request for a conditional use permit for the 46.3-acre project at the corner of N.C. 22 and Airport Road. Board members said their decision was based on findings of fact that suggested the development’s proximity to the Moore County Airport could possibly compromise public health and safety.
The council will likely vote on the matter next month, either concurring with the board’s recommendation or approving the permit request.
The property is zoned Planned Development (PD) and is on the west side of N.C. 22 between Airport Road and Aiken Road and across from Warrior Woods Road.
The site also adjoins property owned by Sandhills Community College and a private property owner, Esther Frye.
Plans for the project include a commercial development on the north side, featuring small shops and a restaurant.
A multi-family development that would be located on the south side would include 232 one- and two-bedroom dwelling units on 34.95 acres.
Robert Hayter, a landscape architect who owns The Hayter Firm in Pinehurst, kicked off the public hearing earlier this week by spending 70 minutes going over the project in detail.
“More than 10 months of analysis has been conducted,” Hayter said. “We have also gained significant perspective from the hearing before the Planning Board.”
He added that the developer — Jim O’Malley, of Franklin, Wis. — is “not at odds” with the Moore County Airport Authority or pilots over their safety concerns.
“We just have a different perspective at this point,” Hayter said.
The airport authority opposes the project because a portion lies directly in the flight path for incoming and outgoing aircraft. The authority also believes that Tyler’s Ridge residents would be adversely affected by aircraft noise and complain to the town.
Hayter proposed that the council adopt an aviation noise easement as a condition for approval of the project.
“Such an easement would hold harmless the town and the airport authority for any aircraft noise,” he said. “We absolutely agree that noise could be a problem.”
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards prohibit the construction of any structure that would encourage public assembly in a runway protection zone (RPZ), areas that extend beyond the edge of a runway.
RPZs are trapezoidal zones that have specific land-use regulations to keep runways clear of any obstacles that could hinder takeoff and landing. They begin 200 feet beyond that area usable for takeoff and landing.
The airport is seeking federal funds for expansions that it hopes to make over the next three years in preparation for the back-to-back U.S. Opens in 2014. Expansion plans include the extension of the airport’s main runway 600 feet toward N.C. 22 and 400 feet toward Hardee Lane in Whispering Pines.
The commercial portion of the project would be in the airport hazard overlay zone, but the residential portion would not.
However, part of the residential portion is under the eventual departure path for planes coming off the main runway at the airport once the expansion is complete.
Hayter told the Planning Board last month that the information before it was compliant with FAA standards and data from the airport authority. He also noted that the town has to assume a certain amount of “relative risk” with the property and described the discussion during the Planning Board public hearing as “sensational” and “worst-case.”
The council, which reviewed initial plans for the project at a work session in August, heard testimony earlier this week from 13 individuals, including Hayter and O‘Malley.
O’Malley said he has been coming to Moore County for more than two decades and plans to move here with his wife after their youngest child graduates from high school “in a couple of years.”
“I’m very excited,” he said. “It’s a great site and the project brings a multitude of things to that part of the county that aren’t currently there.”
O’Malley added that he already owns a business — NC Self Storage in Southern Pines — in the county. He also went over his background, emphasizing his community involvement in Wisconsin.
Of the 11 others who testified, three supported the project, including SCC President John Dempsey, and eight were against.
Ironically, members of the Frye family were on opposite sides of the fence.
Don Frye, speaking on behalf of his 97-year-old mother, Esther, said she wants to be left alone.
“Mr. O’Malley does not live here. His only interest here is profit,” Don Frye said. “You must decide to keep the lid on Pandora’s box or forever fear what might come out of it.”
James F. “Floyd” Frye, who lives next door to his mother, said his brother was “shooting himself in the foot” because the project could increase the value of their property.
“I’m in favor of this project,” Floyd Frye said.
Colin Webster, a pilot and real estate professional who also serves on the Whispering Pines Planning and Zoning Board, opposes the project, although he admitted that his background enabled him to “see this issue from a variety of angles.”
“We’re dealing with the probability of an accident. We’re dealing with a risk,” Webster said. “Are we prepared to live with the risk? You have to decide how much risk you’re willing to take on.”
In addition to the noise and safety issues, others opposed to the project cited a glut of apartments in Southern Pines, current commercial space vacancies in the county, and the project’s proximity to the Sandhills Horticultural Gardens as reasons for the council to vote against it.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story