Pinehurst Shouldn't Pit One Board Against Another
By Jack Farrell
Special to The Pilot
Never has the slogan “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry” been truer.
Sponsors of the highly publicized plan to revise the village of Pinehurst center discovered this recently when they were stopped in their tracks by the Pinehurst Historic Preservation Commission. After reviewing the plans, the Historic Commission refused to grant a “Certificate of Appropriateness” (COA), which has put the project on hold.
Even though there has been considerable time and money spent on this project to date, the commission found that plans as submitted are not compatible with the Historic District of Pinehurst and denied the application. Interestingly, it was the village of Pinehurst that sponsored and submitted the plans to the commission.
The Historic Preservation Commission is chartered by law to review and act upon requests for major work within the Pinehurst Historic District to ensure consistency and see to it that projects do not jeopardize this valuable asset. Although many scoff and make fun of this concept, this is a major reason why Pinehurst has enjoyed much of its success over the years.
The plan presented to the commission included creating a large lawn open space in the Village Green, and enlarging and moving the parking lot in the green farther away from the center of the village.
This is only phase 1 of a four-part project. The remaining parts have yet to be considered by the Historic Commission and could run into a similar fate.
The commission has essentially said, “Let’s make sure we get this right since there is no way to go back and undo anything once the heavy equipment starts to roll and the trees start to come down.”
This project is the signature project of the current Village Council and administration.
Beyond abandoning the plan, which is not likely to happen, there are few options. The sponsors could appeal the decision to the Board of Adjustment, which may overturn the decision of the commission, or they could modify the plan to accommodate the concerns and objections of the commission and resubmit for a COA.
Since the members of both boards were appointed by the Village Council, and the council is the primary owner of this project, an appeal to the Board of Adjustment would put that board in a difficult situation.
The village has indicated it will modify the plan and resubmit it to the Historic Commission.
This is clearly the best alternative. The last thing we need in Pinehurst is to pit one board against another and create an atmosphere of toxic partisanship and lack of cooperation, as demonstrated daily in our nation’s capital. We do not need this atmosphere to filter down to our local government.
There are lessons to be learned from this situation.
The design and decision-making for this project was apparently carried out by a small group of people and landscape architects. It may have been a mistake to assume that plans this group developed were the only option. This should have been the starting point.
Early presentations on downtown streetscape plans focused on the Given Library expansion and gave less attention to the other significant changes embedded in the project. Opinion surveys were focused on asking for agreement on the plan as presented. It would have been beneficial to have held follow-up working forums to discuss details, gather potential changes and concerns, or explore alternatives.
To their considerable credit, the Village Council has used whatever means available to communicate. But it may not be enough to communicate outward. Some means is necessary to facilitate the inward flow of ideas and information.
There is no monopoly on good ideas within a community of talented and capable citizens such as Pinehurst. Although sometimes slow, messy and inefficient, the process of inclusion usually creates a better end product that everyone can support. To get this significant project moving again, all parties will need to be more flexible, open to alternatives and willing to compromise.
It will be interesting to see how this delicate situation is handled, but most people are confident that the village will emerge from the situation stronger, and a better solution will be found.
As the saying from the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” goes, “Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, then it’s not the end.”
Jack Farrell is a second- generation Pinehurst resident, volunteers at the Tufts Archives, and recently created the “Guide to the Historic Village of Pinehurst” booklet.
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