Plans Would Forever Change Our Village
By Jack Farrell
Special to The Pilot
Now that elections for Pinehurst mayor and Village Council are over, residents and merchants should spend some time to understand the planned "downtown streetscape" project that will change the face of downtown Pinehurst in a way that has not been seen for 80 to 100 years.
The last thing the village government will want is for merchants and citizens to be totally surprised when they wake up to bulldozers, backhoes, and street closings in the center of Pinehurst and the accompanying inconveniences related to these construction projects without understanding the overall plan and objectives.
Although initial plans for these changes were presented at meetings held in May and June, the details were buried behind presentations and speakers proposing expansion of the Given Memorial Library and a request for the village to donate almost an acre of land to the library for the expansion.
The village provided for the expansion of the library through zoning changes, so the library expansion issue is now decoupled from discussion of the streetscape project. Even though some items related to this project were debated during the campaigns, little was said or discussed about the actual content of the project or its merits and potential consequences.
Detailed drawings have now been submitted to the village, and they show that the Pinehurst downtown streetscape project has four separate pieces:
1. The creation of a large lawn open space in the Village Green where the sand parking lot is today, moving the parking lot farther away from the center of the village closer to The Village Chapel, and paving the new lot with an impervious surface or concrete pavers.
2. Establishing a lawn in the triangle in front of the "department store" and moving the parking now in the interior of this area out to diagonal parking on Chinquapin and Cherokee roads.
3. Narrowing Chinquapin Road, a main road through the village, by six feet and widening the sidewalk on the south side of this road.
4. Realigning parking in front of the theater building and adding curbs, dividers and some additional main road diagonal parking.
These four parts are independent enough to be discussed, designed, and implemented on their individual merit and do not need to be packaged as a take-it-or-leave-it all approach.
Proponents of this plan insist that additional space is necessary downtown to host larger events and that an open space on the Village Green is consistent with the original design and objective for the area. They also point out that the current sand parking lot is poorly designed and difficult to navigate. The surface is subject to frequent erosion and can be difficult to walk on. Proponents claim narrowing a road slows traffic down and widening a sidewalk will allow for more grass and trees in this section of the village.
Detractors claim that the sand parking lot has been ignored by the village for years with no serious discussion or effort made to reconfigure, improve the surface or enhance the lot. They argue that without some form of restriction on all-day parking by persons working in the village, the parking situation will become worse by moving a main lot farther from the retail center. Both sides claim historical precedence and have valid concerns and arguments.
At this stage in the development of this important project, the village would be well-advised to hold public meetings on these plans to discuss timing and duration of construction and the impact to the village center, and explain both the positive and negative aspects as well as listen to and consider alternatives or potential changes to these plans. A thoughtful and complete public discussion would be consistent with the council's stated desire to be more transparent and inclusive.
People coming to Pinehurst overwhelmingly express a positive opinion about the charm and appearance of the center village. It is critical that everyone understand that this project will change the face of downtown Pinehurst forever, hopefully for the better.
Once made, these changes will be difficult to undo. We had best make sure we are making the right decisions for the long-term viability of Pinehurst.
Jack Farrell lives in Pinehurst.
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