Pine Forest Rezoning Stirs Flood of Questions
A recommendation on the Pine Forest rezoning request is tentatively scheduled for the June 21 meeting of the Moore County Board of Commissioners.
And at a special meeting Tuesday the commissioners hinted that they may be prepared to reach a decision at the same meeting.
“I’m hoping we can have an open dialogue,” said county Planning Director Joey Raczkowski during the Tuesday meeting.
Raczkowski and staff planner Tim Garner took turns reviewing the findings of fact and details of the process involved for a Planned Unit Development-Hamlet, such as requested by MHK Ventures Inc., developer of the golf course-centered community proposed along N.C. 211 southeast of West End.
The commissioners hurled a barrage of questions at Fred Hobbs, whose engineering firm, Hobbs Upchurch & Associates, has designed the 1,800-acre development featuring two 18-hole golf courses, one nine-hole course, a resort hotel, a gated community, a small neighborhood shopping center and other amenities.
However, many of the questions focused on the developer’s plans to build a self-contained on-site wastewater treatment plant and to buy water from a private source to serve Pine Forest. The sewage treatment plant would serve a dual purpose, by treating wastewater from both Pine Forest and the nearby Dormie Club, also developed by MHK Ventures.
Board Chairman Nick Picerno asked Raczkowski if there is an impartial professional who could examine the terrain and the developer’s plan and determine if the sewage treatment plant would indeed pose no danger to the public health and welfare, a condition required before approval can be given.
Raczkowski said he knew of no such entity, but Hobbs said the plan had been examined by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and by Moore County Public Works officials.
Picerno instructed the planning department to secure answers to questions raised during the meeting and be prepared to provide answers when the recommendation is made on the June 21 target date.
The chairman emphasized that June 21 is just a target date, and not a sure thing.
The special meeting was called for the planning staff to review the findings from the lengthy public hearing that spanned three meetings earlier this year. Since the hearing was closed on March 29, the planners have reviewed the testimony of 72 sworn speakers and 66 attachments of evidence.
It was not a public hearing, but David Rook, an attorney representing opponents, did raise questions about a presentation by Hobbs. Rook said the information appeared to be evidence, rather than answers to specific questions.
County Attorney Misty Leland asked more questions, and finally the attorneys, including Jim Van Camp, representing the developer, went into a huddle with planning engineer Bob Koontz, while everyone else took a break.
Back in open meeting, Rook declared that the information presented by Hobbs was already in evidence and appeared to be in response to questions. Rook dropped his objections.
Picerno prefaced the meeting by reading a statement covering a report that he is a member of Dormie Club and that information he gave to The Pilot in a telephone interview was not altogether accurate. Picerno said he did pay the membership entry fee but later changed his mind and received a refund on the payment. Although he told the newspaper that the transaction occurred before he filed for a seat on the board of commissioners in early 2008, Picerno said he later checked his records and realized that he did not actually withdraw until after he had filed.
The chairman said he has had no connection with Dormie Club since the Pine Forest plans were first publicly announced and said he could be fair and impartial in making a decision.
The county attorney cited state law requiring the commissioners to vote on all matters before them unless they have a legal conflict of interest or cannot give a fair and impartial decision.
Leland said she saw no conflict in his brief membership in Dormie Club and expressed the opinion that he could not be legally recused.
Among visitors attending the meeting were the leadership of Save Our Sandhills, an environmental group that opposes the rezoning, along with Carthage Mayor Tommy Stewart and Pinehurst Mayor Ginsey Fallon.
More details will appear in the print version of The Pilot.
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