SP Holds First Forum on UDO Revision
Despite a low turnout, the consultants hired to help the town revise its Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) were pleased with the constructive ideas they received during the first of four three-day forums.
“We would have liked to have seen more faces at the meetings, but what we lacked in numbers we more than made up for in the quality and the diversity of the input,” said Michael Lauer, a principal at Planning Works, the Kansas-based company that is facilitating the yearlong revision process.
The town marketed the forum on its website and through advertising, including a sticker attached to the front page of last Sunday’s edition of The Pilot.
The sticker gave the date, time and location of two evening meetings and two brown bag lunches. It also included a contact telephone number and email address for further information.
Town Manager Reagan Parsons said the town has always wanted the UDO revision process to be inclusive and transparent as well as challenging and rewarding.
“We very much appreciate the people who did turn out and are thankful for their time and input,” Parsons said. “From everything that I’ve heard, the educational components of the forum have been well-received by all concerned.”
Lauer said it was “a delight” to work with a community “where people have a sense of control over their destiny and are taking responsibility for improving their quality of life.”
Bruce Peshoff, another principal at Planning Works, called Southern Pines “an upbeat town.”
“There may be some conflicts here and there, but everybody wants Southern Pines to excel. The lack of negativity means everyone is going to work together and this is going to be a great process,” Peshoff said. “People may not agree on how growth should occur, but everyone agrees that the UDO needs to be vastly improved.
“Everyone came in informed, which makes this process much more productive because we don’t have to start from scratch.”
Peshoff, Lauer and Michael Chandler, a nationally recognized planning expert, were in town last Tuesday through Thursday for a series of meetings and focus groups with elected officials, town staff, stakeholders and residents.
The UDO, which has been amended countless times but not revised since its inception in 1989, controls all design and land-use regulations for the town. The revision will streamline and update the existing code in addition to ensuring its compliance with, and ability to implement the goals of, the Comprehensive Long-Range Plan (CLRP) adopted by the town in 2010.
In addition to the revision, Planning Works will draft regulating plans for downtown Southern Pines and West Southern Pines.
“We’re trying to identify what is needed to make these particular neighborhoods function better,” Lauer said.
Parsons said the first forum was “very intensive and time-consuming” but was run smoothly and “identified key issues and challenges.”
“Particularly through the downtown and West Southern Pines meetings,” he said. “The bottom line is I’m very interested in seeing the options that Planning Works brings back based on what they’ve heard over these three days.”
Peshoff said the Planning Works team will draft a summary of its forum findings and submit it to the town by the end of January. He will return next month for a work session with town staff, the Stakeholder Steering Committee and the technical committee that will review the draft UDO later this year.
“The next two forums will be in the spring, either in March and April or April and May,” Peshoff said.
In the meantime, he noted that interested parties can visit the revision website — www.southernpinesudo.org — for updates. The website also includes community surveys, among other things.
“One of the biggest questions has been, ‘Does the UDO need an update or an overhaul?’ We’re not quite sure yet, but I can guarantee you that it’s going to be different,” Peshoff said. “You are the local experts. We’re going to rely on you for engagement so we can get a more robust UDO.”
In between the forums, Planning Works intends to conduct other public meetings, provide a monthly progress and status report, conduct regular teleconferences with town staff, and maintain the website.
Chandler called the revision process “the most important task your town faces this year.”
“The future of Southern Pines should not be a matter of chance. It should be a matter of choice,” Chandler said. “The people before you have left a great legacy. Now, it is on your collective watch that you will make decisions today that will have a ripple effect down the road.
“What will your legacy be?”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story