Southern Pines Council Approves Major Rezoning
The Southern Pines Town Council Tuesday evening approved the rezoning for a major new development on the north end of town which could add a major hotel, more golf and significantly more shopping to the area.
The undeveloped land, known as the Knollwood Tract, is located near the intersection of U.S. 1 and N.C. 22. It is the same tract that was the center of a major confrontation five years ago when the proposed Pine Needles Village development was defeated.
The Bell family, represented by Kelly Miller, submitted a conceptual master plan on June 25. The plan was required as part of the family's application to rezone the land from Planned Development-Conditional District (PD-CD) to Planned Unit Development (PUD).
The Knollwood Tract is currently envisioned to include a 300- to 400-room hotel, an 18-hole golf course, up to 350,000 square feet of retail space, up to 100,000 square feet of office and commercial space, as many as 300 assisted living units, and up to 300 homes.
The Town Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to rezone land allowing the project. Future development of the site will be reviewed as new projects are proposed within it. Council member Chris Smithson cast the sole opposing vote. He has been voicing concerns the last few weeks that the council was not taking its time to examine the overall proposal more closely.
"The question tonight is not whether this property should be developed to a fairly high intensity," Smithson said. "The question tonight is whether this property will develop in a way that is consistent with our adopted plans and in a way that benefits the property owner and the community overall.
"We don't have the information we need in order to make an informed decision in confirmation of that. I believe we should deny this application because there are too many unanswered questions and little as far as standards go to ensure that things turn out as intended.
But Town Council member Mike Fields said, "I just don't know that you can get a perfect plan at this stage, especially when there's no developer. I think it might become economically unfeasible if we put in too many regulations on it now. We need flexibility."
A group of downtown merchants had asked the council last month to conduct -- or have the developer conduct -- a study exploring the potential economic impact a new development would have on downtown. Council members last week rejected the request, saying such a study had never been required previously.
That merchant group, led by Tony Grausso, co-owner of Seagrove Candle Co., called the council's decision not to require the study "disappointing and perplexing."
Town Council member Jim Simeon said that, in the long run, the project "will be a positive addition to the town of Southern Pines. This will only enhance our reputation as a destination."
Mayor David McNeill said that, "I'm pleased with what I've seen so far. I believe this project can be a catalyst to attract more visitors, which should lead to more business downtown for our merchants and restaurants."
Kelly Miller, president and CEO of Pine Needles and Mid Pines, said the Bell family was "grateful" for the support of the council, Southern Pines Planning Board and "the citizens who are behind the project."
"We're excited. Now, we'll begin the work of trying to move forward with the project," Miller said. "We had discussions with some groups before submitting the application, but basically quit talking to everybody thereafter. We're going to revisit some of those conversations.
"We're hopeful we can come up with a great project for our community."
The results from Tuesday night's meeting occurred after press time for Wednesday's edition of The Pilot. See Friday's edition for full details and further coverage of the council's meeting.
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