Watershed Appeal on Tyler's Ridge Rejected
It appears that the controversial Tyler's Ridge at Sandhills project will finally move forward unimpeded.
The N.C. Environmental Management Commission (EMC) voted 14-0 last Friday against a "petition to reconsider" filed by Southern Pines attorney Marsh Smith on behalf of Esther Frye, an adjacent landowner, and the Moore County Wildlife and Conservation Club.
Frye and the club had asked the EMC earlier this month to declare that all of the project's 46.2 acres fall under the town's watershed allocation rather than just the 11.54 acres that make up the commercial portion. But the EMC voted unanimously against that proposed declaratory ruling.
The 5/70 allocation is an option that allows local governments in North Carolina to have higher density development within a limited portion of a water supply watershed. If the EMC had ruled the other way, Tyler's Ridge may not have qualified for its conditional use permit (CUP).
"My clients did their best and stood up for the environment, but unfortunately these efforts did not carry the day this time," Smith said in an email after Friday's vote. "In no way does that mean that their strong and sincere efforts were not worth making."
Town Manager Reagan Parsons said a second unanimous ruling by the EMC appears to validate how the town and the N.C. Division of Water Quality handled the 5/70 issue. But Parsons added that the issue may not be closed.
"We are certainly unsure whether this is over or whether there will be another step somewhere else," he said Tuesday.
Tyler's Ridge will include a commercial development on the north side, with small shops and a restaurant. A multifamily development on the south side includes 216 one- and two-bedroom dwelling units. In between, there will be three single-family lots.
The Southern Pines Town Council voted 4-1 in July to approve the project, planned at the corner of N.C. 22 and Airport Road.
Developer Jim O'Malley said Tuesday that he was glad the "extremely lengthy process," which started in August 2010, appeared to be over.
"I think the net result is that people will be impressed with this project," O'Malley said. "It will provide economic stimulus. No community should be disappointed to have a project like this."
O'Malley added that he remains "on track" to start construction in January.
"It's going to be very difficult to get the first apartments done in time for the fall 2012 semester, but that's what we're shooting for," O'Malley said. "We hope to have two of the six buildings in Phase I done by then, so we would have 48 apartments available to lease at that time."
The Tyler's Ridge 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 Frye.
Opposition to the project centered around safety concerns, aircraft noise, an alleged glut of apartments in Southern Pines, current commercial space vacancies in Moore County and the project's proximity to the Sandhills Horticultural Gardens.
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 include an 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 and three single-family lots would be in the airport hazard overlay zone, but the multifamily residential portion would not.
However, part of the multifamily residential portion is under the eventual departure path for planes coming off the main runway once the expansion is complete.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at email@example.com.
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