Pine Forest Decision Delayed Again
A decision on the controversial Pine Forest rezoning request has been delayed another two weeks.
After three and a half hours of the reopened hearing Tuesday night, the four seated members of the Moore County Board of Commissioners voted to continue the hearing until the first meeting in March. Commissioner Larry Caddell was allowed to recuse himself because his former service as mayor of Carthage could be interpreted as a conflict of interest.
“It’s this board’s responsibility to act as judge and jury. We have the opportunity to separate the wheat from the chaff,” said Commissioner Tim Lea, in response to objections raised by an attorney representing the proponents of the development during the hearing.
The decision to continue the hearing came after testimony was presented by Bill Huber of Pinehurst, who had prepared statistics on estimated water usage quantities supporting his belief that the developer, MHK Ventures Inc., could not irrigate the golf courses using treated wastewater alone.
Huber estimated it would take 49 million gallons a year to irrigate golf courses to accepted standards and that it would be necessary to draw some of that water from Nicks Creek, the headwaters of which lie within the Pine Forest development.
“His math is correct, but he’s not correct in his assumptions about irrigation and water runoff,” said engineer Fred Hobbs of the Hobbs Upchurch & Associates firm. Hobbs Upchurch is handling the engineering and planning design for MHK.
The developers want to build a major resort and residential community on a tract of almost 1,800 acres facing N.C. 211 southeast of West End. The plan calls for two residential developments – one a private community, the other a resort development. Included would be two 18-hole golf courses, one nine-hole course, a hotel, a small neighborhood shopping center plus other resort amenities and lots for up to 710 residential units.
Pine Forest abuts Dormie Club, a golf course development located off N.C. 73 and also a project of MHK Ventures. The plan calls for the two developments to share an on-site wastewater treatment plant to be built at Pine Forest.
The design calls for reuse of wastewater from that plant to irrigate the three 18-hole golf courses and the smaller course as well as irrigation of yards and other landscaping. The developer has offered to pay the county $3 million to build a water line from Pine Forest to the Montgomery County water system with the understanding that this source of water would provide the potable water for the development. The developers say that Pine Forest would thus become no drain on the county’s existing water supply and would provide an environmentally sound wastewater treatment system that would not further deplete the county’s sewage treatment plant at Addor.
Opponents of the project raised issues relating to water and pollution, traffic congestion, preservation of wildlife habitat and related environmental concerns.
However, only two of about 10 opponents signed up to speak actually made it to the podium. The first two hours were devoted to presentations by the county planning staff, the developers, the Hobbs Upchurch staff and proponents of the measure.
Board Chairman Nick Picerno called a halt to the proceedings shortly after 10:30 p.m., when he commented about the length of the hearing, the number of speakers still to be heard and the number of agenda items awaiting board attention later in the meeting. About half of the people who came to the historic courthouse in Carthage to attend the hearing had already left at that point.
By that time it was clear that the hearing would be extended even longer while attorneys for both sides argued legal issues with the county attorney occasionally consulted for advice.
The Tuesday night hearing was a continuation of the hearing opened at a Jan. 18 meeting. That one lasted about three hours and was continued to give the planning staff time to research new evidence presented during that hearing.
The issue before the commissioners is a decision on a request to rezone about 1,652 acres of the Pine Forest tract to develop the acreage into a Planned Unit Development-Hamlet type of community as allowed by the countywide zoning ordinance.
The hearing was quasi-judicial, requiring the presentation of evidence and testimony relating to facts and excluding opinions and hearsay. All speakers were sworn to tell the truth, just as an oath is taken in a court of law. When the call was issued for witnesses, the area in front of the board’s desk was filled by dozens of people ready to take the oath administered by Laura Williams, clerk to the board.
The commissioners did not adjourn their meeting Tuesday night until after 11:30, when they completed their agenda.
More details will appear in the print version of The Pilot.
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