S.P. Council Set to Vote on Tyler's Ridge March 28
The Southern Pines Town Council will vote on the Tyler's Ridge at Sandhills mixed-use development at its work session March 28 now that the marathon public hearing has closed.
The council listened to almost seven hours of testimony at its monthly meeting, which adjourned at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday after more than 20 speakers had made their case for or against the project.
Robert Hayter, a landscape architect who owns The Hayter Firm in Pinehurst, requested a vote because "this is not a new topic" and the testimony was "not significantly different" from that previously presented before the council and the Southern Pines Planning Board.
"I'd love to condense this process," said Hayter, who presented the project on behalf of developer Jim O'Malley.
But council member Chris Smithson was adamantly opposed.
"I think it would be absurd and completely irresponsible to vote on it," Smithson said. "It's our job to sort through the evidence. I think we must err on the side of thoroughness."
Smithson then proposed that the council vote on the matter at its next monthly meeting on April 12. Council member Mike Fields countered that a month was too long.
"It will take some time to review the evidence," Fields said. "I would disagree that it would take a month."
After O'Malley told the council that "waiting another month is a big deal" because of ongoing development costs, Mayor Mike Haney proposed the March 28 work session as a compromise.
"That would appear to me to be a logical way to do this," Haney said. "I haven't really had a situation quite like this before."
The 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 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 on the south side would include 232 one- and two-bedroom dwelling units on 34.95 acres.
Smithson attempted to stop resumption of the public hearing by claiming that O'Malley had submitted an incomplete application.
"The residential part has plans," Smithson said. "The commercial part does not contain any plans. I believe without a site plan for the commercial portion ... it is not complete and there is not enough information to move forward."
Council member Fred Walden appeared to agree, saying, "It was a question mark in my mind also."
But Fields said it seemed like a "last-minute thing to bring up," and Town Manager Reagan Parsons noted that "it has not been an unspoken issue throughout the process."
Hayter told Smithson that he was "splitting hairs."
"I think it would be a misjustice of due process (to delay the hearing)," Hayter said. "I believe what's being done here is maneuvering
"Everything we have submitted constitutes a plan of intent. Let's be realistic. There's been no deviation. There's been no deception."
After Town Attorney Doug Gill assured the council that O'Malley's application was "consistent with past practice," it voted 4-1 to continue the public hearing. Smithson was the lone dissenter.
Opposition to the project centers around safety concerns, aircraft noise, a glut of apartments in Southern Pines, current commercial space vacancies in Moore County, and the project's proximity to the Sandhills Horticultural Gardens.
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."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at email@example.com.
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