Southern Pines Council OK's Tyler's Ridge Plan
Construction of Tyler’s Ridge at Sandhills will likely begin before the end of the year now that the Southern Pines Town Council has approved the controversial mixed-use development.
The council voted 4-1 at its monthly work session Monday to approve developer Jim O’Malley’s revised application for a conditional use permit for the 46.2-acre project at the corner of N.C. 22 and Airport Road.
Tyler’s Ridge will include a commercial development on the north side, featuring small shops and a restaurant. A multifamily development on the south side includes 216 one- and two-bedroom dwelling units. In between, there will be three single-family lots.
“I’m hoping to start construction in December,” O’Malley said after the meeting. “I would like to have 48 apartment units available by next fall. This project has always been about the economic value that it will bring to Southern Pines.”
O’Malley added that he hopes any concerns brought forth by opponents during the arduous public hearing process will be put to rest once Tyler’s Ridge is built out.
“I’m excited because it’s a project I can use as an example going forward,” he said.
Council member Chris Smithson cast the lone dissenting vote, claiming that O’Malley’s revised application did not comply with the town’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) because the dimension, height and location of the three single-family homes were not included in the application.
Smithson also raised concern about a text amendment approved last fall by the council that he has called “de facto rezoning,” saying that property owners adjoining the Tyler’s Ridge site may not have received proper public notice.
Town Attorney Doug Gill said there was no legal precedent in North Carolina for him to offer a legal opinion on the issue.
“Whether the change (in the text amendment) was substantial is an issue that has never been addressed in North Carolina,” Gill said. “It’s unlikely that the change in this instance is substantial. If either side appeals, then the courts would decide.”
Smithson made a motion that the application did not comply with the UDO, but it died for lack of a second.
“I find it disappointing that the council is willing to overlook our own ordinance,” he said. “It’s not the right way to go.”
Council member Mike Fields then made a motion that the application did comply “with all applicable requirements” of the UDO, and council member David McNeill made the second.
“The law comes first in my mind,” Smithson said Tuesday. “Our oath is to uphold the law. That’s our first responsibility as council members. My vote was based on conflicts with the law, not any specific personal feelings I had about the project. I couldn’t get to that part because the law comes first.”
Council member Fred Walden apparently agreed with Smithson that the council did not appear to be following “the letter of the law,” but Walden sided with the majority when it came time to vote.
Doesn’t Endanger Safety
The first application for a conditional use permit submitted by O’Malley led to public hearings in back-to-back months at both the council and Planning Board stages.
The Planning Board voted 4-2 on Jan. 20 to recommend that the council deny a permit for the project. O’Malley then withdrew the initial application in April after it became clear to him that the application did not comply with the UDO.
The move pre-empted a vote by the council on whether the application complied.
O’Malley submitted a second application in May, and the board voted 5-0 after a public hearing in June to recommend approval of the revised plan. The council conducted its second public hearing earlier this month.
Fields said Tuesday that the council concluded that Tyler’s Ridge, if completed as proposed, would not endanger the public health or safety, would not substantially injure the value of adjoining or abutting property, would be in harmony with the area in which it is to be located, and would be in general conformity with the land use plan.
“We were voting on whether the application met a series of objective standards and legal requirements,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether a council member personally ‘liked’ or ‘didn’t like’ the project.”
The council did include conditions with its approval, including that the commercial development exclude hotels and motels, bars and nightclubs, and movie theaters.
The council also adopted five of six conditions submitted at the July public hearing by Don Frye, whose mother, Esther, lives next to the commercial portion of the development.
They include fencing and plantings that will serve as a buffer; providing Esther Frye with public water and sewer access, and cable television access; and limiting the hours of Dumpster and delivery service.
'Ups and Downs’
The primary changes in O’Malley’s revised application included the addition of the single-family lots, the reduction of the number of apartments from 232 to 216, the revision of access to N.C. 22 to improve traffic flow, and that a review of the project by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) be submitted upon completion.
O’Malley credited Robert Hayter, of The Hayter Firm in Pinehurst, with steering the project through “all of the ups and downs” since it was first presented to the council last August.
“There were times when I was concerned,” O’Malley said. “But I thought Robert did a fabulous job of meeting people’s needs, allaying their fears and answering their questions.”
Hayter said he was gratified that Tyler’s Ridge will become part of Southern Pines.
“On the larger scale, professionally it was difficult for me to defend a project that to the best of my knowledge met the concerns of the opponents,” he said. “Having gone through all this, the town’s staff and the conditional use permit process for the next applicant will be better.”
The Tyler’s Ridge 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.
Opposition to the project centered around safety concerns, aircraft noise, an alleged glut of apartments in Southern Pines, current commercial space vacancies in Moore County and the project’s proximity to the Sandhills Horticultural Gardens.
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 include an 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 and the three single-family lots would be in the airport hazard overlay zone, but the multifamily residential portion would not.
However, part of the multifamily residential portion is under the eventual departure path for planes coming off the main runway once the expansion is complete.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at email@example.com.
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