Land Near Pine Needles Under Review for Development
The Southern Pines Town Council will consider potential future uses on 550 acres next to Pine Needles at its monthly work session Monday amid speculation that a proposed upscale outlet center on the site is already a done deal.
Town Manager Reagan Parsons said nothing has been submitted for the packet that goes out to council members prior to the meeting.
"The packet is available to the public and has been posted on the town's website," Parsons said.
Kelly Miller, president and CEO of Pine Needles, said Tuesday that he plans to discuss potential uses for the land, not a specific project.
"I can assure you that there is nothing that we're even presenting to the town," Miller said. "We're just trying to open a dialogue. We're letting the town know what we're thinking and seeking input."
The Pilot received several emails earlier this week from concerned citizens and business people who questioned why the council was meeting on a holiday and placing a potentially controversial issue on the agenda.
"It underscores the rumor that the town is fast-tracking this project, which also may not be the case, and will only serve to foster mistrust among the people, which I'm confident is not your intention," Southern Pines resident Suzanne Coleman said in an email sent earlier this week to council members. "I urge you to approach any potential project such as this with great caution and the utmost transparency."
The rumor mill was fueled by Bob Sonnenblick, chairman of Sonnenblick Industries in Pacific Palisades, Calif., who recently told Value Retail News (VRN) that he was planning to break ground in January on Pinehurst Factory Stores.
Sonnenblick told the online publication that the 336,800-square-foot upscale outlet center - likely to be anchored by the outlet "brand" of four nationally known department stores - would be the first phase of a mixed-use project that would include three 300-room hotels with luxury spas and a golf course.
Sonnenblick also told VRN that he hoped to complete the outlet center by May 2014 in order to take advantage of the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open golf championships scheduled to be played in back-to-back weeks the following month on Pinehurst No. 2.
Sonnenblick has estimated that the outlet center would draw shoppers from a 200-mile radius, create about 400 new jobs and generate annual sales of at least $120 million.
But Miller said that the Bell family no longer has an agreement with Sonnenblick, who was attending an industry convention in Las Vegas this week and could not be reached at press time for comment.
"Clearly, he's no longer involved," Miller said. "Hopefully, that answers some of the concerns. We want to do the right thing. The town spent a lot of money developing the Comprehen-sive Long-Range Plan, and we look forward to working within the parameters of that plan.
"We want to work with town officials and the community to come up with a great project for the land, whatever that project may be."
The land is owned by the Bell family, which owns and operates Pine Needles and Mid Pines.
Hobbs Upchurch Associates, on behalf of the Bell family, asked to be on Monday's agenda to discuss the undeveloped property.
In 2007, the same tract between U.S. 1 and Camp Easter Road was slated to become Pine Needles Village, a mixed-use development that became so controversial that it affected the outcome of that year's election. Pine Needles Village was voted down by the council shortly thereafter.
"Given the history of this site and its significance as one of the larger undeveloped tracts in our jurisdiction, Mayor (David) McNeill asked that I extend a formal invitation to (Southern Pines) Planning Board members to attend the public work session," Parsons said last week in an email to council members.
The work session is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday in the community room at the Southern Pines Police Department.
Sonnenblick proposed last year to develop the outlet center along the north side of Morganton Road on 40 acres owned by the Van Camp family. The family had planned to add office space and multifamily housing on the surrounding 76 acres in a collective development called Morgan Park North.
But the proposal with Sonnenblick Industries unraveled to the point that the two sides exchanged a series of emails earlier this year in which each accused the other of lying and each threatened to sue the other.
The Van Camp family also owns 118 acres on the south side of Morganton Road, and is working with Clift Commercial of Southern Pines to attract "big box" retailers to the site.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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