SP Council Reviews Concepts for Pine Needles Site
The Bell family is not marketing its 550 acres next to Pine Needles, but strong interest from developers has prompted the family to work with a local planner to develop a conceptual master plan for the site.
“We hope to have the conceptual plan done in June or July,” Kelly Miller, president and CEO of Pine Needles, said Monday after appearing before the Southern Pines Town Council. “We’re excited about it. We want to work with everybody to create a great plan.
“But we also want to make sure we’ve got it right. That is first and foremost.”
Miller told the council at its monthly work session that the Bell family would soon seek to rezone the undeveloped property from Planned Development-Conditional District (PD-CD) to Planned Unit Development (PUD).
“We think a PUD makes sense,” he said.
Town Manager Reagan Parsons said a successful rezoning may give the town and the developer more flexibility in determining final uses on the site.
“This approach provides an excellent opportunity to further advance the vision created by the Comprehensive Long-Range Plan and a win-win for the landowners and the community,” Parsons said after the meeting.
Miller said potential uses include a hotel, golf course, commercial space, retail stores, assisted living and multifamily housing, among others.
“We do not have a specific plan today. We’re here to talk about specific uses. All of the parties we have talked to are interested in a mixed-use project,” he said. “We want your input. Our intent is to be transparent. We have no hidden agenda.”
Miller also reassured the council that the Bell family, which owns and operates Pine Needles and Mid Pines, is no longer working with California developer Bob Sonnenblick on a proposed upscale outlet mall that would front U.S. 1 on 40 of the 550 acres.
Sonnenblick, chairman of Sonnenblick Industries in Pacific Palisades, Calif., recently told Value Retail News that he was planning to break ground in January on Pinehurst Factory Stores.
“We’re disappointed in Mr. Sonnenblick because we hadn’t agreed with him on anything,” Miller said. “We never agreed with Mr. Sonnenblick on a plan to move forward.”
Fred Hobbs, managing partner of Hobbs Upchurch & Associates, said Sonnenblick had been asked before their business relationship ended to not make any public announcements.
“Where Mr. Sonnenblick is from, you have to shout to be heard. Around here, a whisper suffices,” said Hobbs, who is working with the Bell family. “It became apparent to me that it would be best for the Bell family to represent its own interests.”
Monday’s work session was attended by about 30 concerned citizens and business owners who had questioned why the council was meeting on a holiday and placing a potentially controversial issue on the agenda.
Tony Grausso, co-owner of Seagrove Candle Company and a founder of the Broad Street Merchant Community, said after the meeting that he hopes the town council “will see the wisdom” in requiring any future developer to undertake an economic impact study before breaking ground.
“Ideally, the study would be funded by the developer,” Grausso said. “I would hope that any development would complement the Broad Street commercial district.”
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.
Mayor David McNeill told Miller that the current council wants to work with the family moving forward.
“We want a plan that will benefit all,” McNeill said before turning to the merchants in attendance and adding, “I hope that we have a win-win situation here. It’s very vital that we continue to draw people to this area to further stimulate our economy.”
Council member Mike Fields said the Bell family was not “proposing anything drastic.”
“I think the community will be well-served by what you’re proposing,” Fields said, “if we can get the right mix of uses.”
Council member Fred Walden, who voted for Pine Needles Village, said he liked the potential mix this time.
“I think there should be some commercial and retail, but I think it should not threaten the merchants in downtown Southern Pines,” Walden said.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or email@example.com
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