Picerno Once Had Dormie Membership
Nick Picerno said Thursday that his membership in Dormie Club was brief and ended before he announced his candidacy for the Moore County Board of Commissioners.
Picerno, who now chairs the board, was responding to questions raised about his relationship with a golf club developed by the same company that is now developing the controversial proposed Pine Forest project near West End.
"I was a member back when Dormie Club was first being developed, but I got my money back so I was never an official member," Picerno said.
The Pine Forest proposal is fiercely opposed by environmentalists.
Among them is Marsh Smith, who, in a letter to The Pilot, said Picerno needed to explain his relationship with Dormie Club. Smith is an attorney who lives in Southern Pines.
"Due to speculation around the county on this subject and its effect on the citizens' faith in their government," Smith wrote, "it seems only fair - to the public and Picerno - for the board chairman to set the record straight with a fully detailed account of his relationship with (1) the Dormie Club and (2) the entity seeking to develop both the Dormie Club and Pine Forest. A lot of people will be listening."
'Keeping an Open Mind'
Although Dormie Club's progress has been held up by the economic recession, the golf course has been completed and was recently opened to the golfing public. Once the residential portion of the development is occupied, it is expected that access to the golf club will be restricted to club members.
"The citizens of this county need to know what the Moore County Board of Commissioners should already know - the approval of the Pine Forest PUD application currently pending before the board is essential for the success of the nearby Dormie Club," Smith said in his letter. "The developer cannot build more than a handful of homes in the Dormie Club without the services of the wastewater treatment plant planned as a part of the Pine Forest PUD on the other side of N.C. 73."
Picerno, who lives at McLendon Hills, told The Pilot that he dropped his relationship with Dormie Club before he filed for a seat on the board of commissioners in 2008.
By "an official member," Picerno said he meant that he never paid dues or accepted any services from the club or the developer. Instead, he paid the entry fee of $120,000, which was returned when he changed his mind about the Dormie membership and elected instead to buy property at Hilton Head, S.C.
"Initially I was interested, but this was long before I became a county commissioner," he said.
As board chairman, Picerno presided during an estimated 12 hours of public hearing on the rezoning request by MHK Ventures Inc., developer of the proposed Pine Forest. He will be required to vote on the matter within several weeks.
The rezoning issue is so complex that the county planning department is still studying transcripts of the hearing before making a recommendation to the commissioners. The staff will discuss its progress and seek further guidance from the commissioners at a special board meeting Tuesday night.
In a telephone interview, Picerno said that he is -keeping an open mind about the rezoning request, and his former brief membership at Dormie Club will have no bearing on his decision. He said he owes no allegiance to either project or to the development company.
Dormie Club, also developed by MHK, fronts on N.C. 73 and lies north of the Pine Forest tract, about 1,800 acres off N.C. 211. The two developments would be separate but, if the rezoning is approved, would share an on-site wastewater treatment plant to be built on the Pine Forest acreage.
MHK has asked the county to rezone some 1,600 acres of the tract into a hamlet-type of Planned Unit Development. The plan calls for two 18-hole golf courses and a nine-hole course along with a gated community and a resort community with a hotel and related resort amenities. The plan also includes a small neighborhood shopping center.
Dormie Club's development plan received approval from county agencies before MHK applied for the PUD-hamlet rezoning permit. MHK is clear to complete the Dormie Club development as long as it complies with zoning ordinance provisions. Work on Pine Forest cannot proceed without the rezoning approval.
Commissioner Larry Caddell has been recused from participating in the hearing process or the decision on Pine Forest because of his previous position as mayor of Carthage. He was mayor at a time when the town was planning and building a new water plant, which draws water from Nicks Creek. The creek's headwaters lie within the Pine Forest acreage.
The developers have pledged not to draw any water from Nicks Creek, but critics question whether they will be able to stick to that promise in time of severe drought. MHK has offered to pay for a water system that will be independent of the county system and will not draw from Nicks Creek. The plan also calls for using treated wastewater from the on-site plant to irrigate the golf courses.
In addition to water and environmental issues, opponents of Pine Forest have complained that the project would worsen traffic conditions and that the county already has too many golf courses.
Contact Florence Gilkeson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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