Village Questions Whether Cost of Landmark Report Is Worth It
The Pinehurst Village Council isn’t rushing to spend any money to find out the importance of keeping the village’s National Historic Landmark status.
The council discussed the merits of a cultural landscape report during a 90-minute work session Tuesday night.
Much of the discussion among council members and residents centered on the question of how the village can retain its National Historic Landmark status while still changing and adapting to serve the current and future needs of its residents.
“We need to get this right,” said council member John Cashion. “We need to do something but not in haste.”
The National Park Service granted National Historic Landmark status to the village of Pinehurst in 1996. Designations are rare. Fewer than 2,500 sites in the United States and only 38 in North Carolina have them.
In recent years, the relationship between federal park officials and the village has grown strained over the issue. The village hired consultants Richard Mandell and Cari Goetcheus to meet with officials in Atlanta to iron out differences. Among the topics discussed was a cultural landscape report. That report documents the past, but can also help determine what is historically significant to the area and serve as a guideline for future development.
Mandell recommended that Pinehurst create the report.
A study costs $120,000.
Many residents said the status designation was important. But several expressed concern about the report’s cost and how it might benefit the village.
Resident Bart O’Connor recommended a cheaper option involving village staff and volunteers. If the report wasn’t in the proper form, O’Connor said, the council could take the information and have an expert finish the report for a cheaper cost.
Resident Richard Weinberg warned the council that doing such a report could give park officials the ability to impede future projects.
“What you may be buying is a gun to shoot yourself in the foot,” he said.
Several residents spoke of the importance of marketing the Landmark status, regardless of what the Village Council chooses to do.
“I’m not advocating we get rid of it, but if we are going to keep it let’s use it,” said local developer Marty McKenzie.
Resident John Root said the landmark designation is valuable to the village. He cited a September report by the North Carolina Downtown Development Association that stressed the value of the designation in terms of marketing the area.
“We are more than (golf),” Root said. “We have to be more than that.”
He said that if the village uses the landmark status as a marketing tool, it could easily recoup the cost of creating the report.
Council members Mark Parson and Mayor Nancy Roy Fiorillo said they do not feel that the proposed changes to the downtown area are significant enough to cause the village to lose its status.
Fiorillo said restoration of the Fair Barn and work done to Rassie Wicker Park and the Arboretum represent examples of how the village has been a good steward of the designation.
“We’ve made a concentrated effort on preservation and making sure our historic resources are maintained,” she said.
Jerry Montgomery was among several residents who said the village needs to move forward.
“We’re a living community, not a museum,” Montgomery said. “We have to make changes, not radical ones, but we have to make changes.”
Pinehurst has delayed planned improvements to the downtown as it mulls creating a report. Those improvements include changes to the sand parking lot that would shift the parking lot and create a larger open lawn space. The parking lot would be paved with a new surface.
The plan includes establishing a lawn in front of the old department store building and reconfiguring the parking. There are also streetscape improvements along Chinquapin as well as realigning parking in front of the Theatre Building and creating additional parking downtown.
There is no guarantee that a report would prevent the village from losing its designation. National Park Service spokesperson Bill Reynolds said that if the NPS thinks the historic integrity of a designated landmark has been impaired, it will conduct a study to determine if the area no longer has the qualities that caused it to be designated originally.
If a study concludes a significant change, it goes to a special advisory board for review. That board includes non-governmental members who are experts in historic preservation. It meets twice a year and reviews 20 to 24 cases per session.
If the committee agrees with the report, it can recommend the secretary of the interior revoke the landmark status.
Reynolds said the overall process can take two or three years.
After Tuesday’s discussion, the council made it clear that it values the designation, but questions remain on how to proceed.
“I’m prepared to keep working on it a little bit longer,” council member John Strickland said.
Contact Tom Embrey at email@example.com.
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