County Sets Special Meeting for Pine Forest
Supporters and opponents of the Pine Forest development will have a meeting all their own with the Moore County Board of Commissioners.
The continuation of the protracted rezoning hearing will take place at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 29, according to an announcement from the county Wednesday.
"We really need to get this thing moving," Board Chairman Nick Picerno said Tuesday night during the commissioners' regular meeting.
Picerno said the board was considering calling a special meeting to be devoted only to hearing the Pine Forest rezoning issue. His statement came as the board postponed the continued hearing a second time.
Commissioner Tim Lea made the motion to postpone the hearing, a legal formality since the county had announced earlier Tuesday that the hearing could not be held that night because there was no assurance all five of the commissioners could be present.
Pine Forest is the development planned by MHK Ventures Inc. for a tract of almost 1,800 acres on N.C. 211 southeast of West End.
To proceed with the planned unit development (PUD) in hamlet style, the company wants to rezone almost the entire tract. The plan calls for two residential communities - one a private gated community and the other a resort open to the public - and a small neighborhood shopping center. The proposal includes two 18-hole golf courses, a nine-hole golf course, a hotel, a clubhouse and other resort amenities.
The developers want to build an on-site sewage treatment plant to serve both Pine Forest and Dormie Club, a golf course-centered development on adjacent property facing N.C. 73.
MHK also owns the Dormie Club, which recently opened to golfers. MHK has agreed to pay the county up to $3 million to build water lines from Montgomery County to the development because the county water system does not presently serve that area.
Opponents have emphasized the effect the development might have on water resources, the environment and traffic.
The first hearing was held at a regular meeting in January, when the commissioners tabled their decision while county officials carried out additional research based on information presented during the hearing.
The next hearing, held at a regular meeting in February, lasted about four and a half hours, so long that Picerno called a halt shortly after 10:30 p.m. By that time, several speakers, mostly opponents, were yet to be heard, but the board had another public hearing and a long agenda of other business items to be addressed, including contracts and legal resolutions.
Other members of the public and county employees had been waiting since 6 p.m. for other agenda items to be handled. The board then agreed to continue the hearing until the March 1 meeting.
However, two board members were unable to attend the first meeting in March. Lea suffered injuries, including broken ribs, in an equestrian accident, and Commissioner Jimmy Melton was receiving treatment for chest pains. Both men were briefly hospitalized.
That required another postponement, because the hearing is quasi-judicial, meaning that a quorum must be present to hear the evidence before making a decision.
And one member, Commissioner Larry Caddell, has been recused because of a possible conflict of interest. Caddell was mayor of Carthage during the period when the town was building a new water treatment plant. The town draws water from Nicks Creek, headwaters of which are located in the Pine Forest land.
The hearing rescheduled for March 15 was postponed because it was not clear whether both Lea and Melton would be able to attend, or, if they did, whether they would be physically able to endure another lengthy meeting. As it turned out, Lea was able to attend, but Melton did not make it.
Early in the Tuesday night hearing, Picerno said that because of the length of the previous hearings, the board was considering calling a special meeting to hear only the Pine Forest issue.
County Attorney Misty Leland urged the board to set the special meeting date as soon as possible because of the legally required advance advertising of called meetings.
Quasi-judicial hearings are similar to courtroom proceedings with speakers sworn to tell the truth and required to present evidence, not opinion.
The Pine Forest rezoning issue actually dates to 2009, when it was initially heard by the Moore County Planning Board. The commissioners heard the matter at a February 2010 meeting, when they delayed a decision pending a more specific understanding of water resources for the huge development. The matter was reopened this year with the company's $3 million proposal for the water line extension.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved a rezoning request for five parcels, totaling 4.792 acres, on U.S. 1 south of Vass from heavy industrial conditional use district to highway commercial. This is the tract where SunPak Foods was planning to develop a food processing and packaging plant in 2008.
However, the company ran into financial difficulties and discontinued the project in 2009. The county had rezoned the land from highway commercial to industrial to accommodate the proposed plant.
The request this time was to return the land to its original zoning, which is more likely to find a usage than industrial zoning, according to Roy Harvel, the Realtor representing the owner, Luigia Colombo.
No one spoke against the rezoning during a public hearing conducted before the board voted.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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