Commission Leader Explains Delay on Village Project
The Pinehurst Historic Commission will not stand in the way of improvement projects for the downtown village and Village Green, the commission's chairman said Friday.
Howard Warren said the commission will consider the projects again at its next meeting on Dec. 20. At that time the board is expected to issue the approval needed for the planned changes.
The proposed improvement projects downtown would shift the sand parking lot slightly into the existing green and then open up the green in the area near the Given Memorial Library and Tufts Archives.
The commission on Thursday had delayed, without explanation, action on an order from the village's Board of Adjustment that it had ruled incorrectly when it rejected the plans earlier this summer.
Warren elaborated some on Friday.
"We've received the order and reviewed it with our attorney," Warren said. "We found a couple of changes (to the order) that needed to be made."
Warren said on the advice of the commission's attorney he would not elaborate on the changes that were to be made, other than to say they are "important."
Village Manager Andy Wilkison said the changes are to the wording in the document but will not change the nature of the order.
The wording changes will have to be approved by the Board of Adjustment at its next meeting on Dec. 6, Wilkison said.
Prior to Thursday's meeting, the commission met for an hour with its attorney to discuss the order.
Friday, Warren cited legal advice as the reason for being tight-lipped on the process.
"We are not trying to hide anything," Warren said. "We are trying to be straight forward, and we are doing what we think we have to do."
Earlier this month, the Board of Adjustment issued a harshly worded ruling stating the commission's prior rejection of the improvements had been improper.
The commission has until Dec. 3 to appeal the ruling in court, but Warren's comments Friday mean that course of action will not come.
The Board of Adjustment's ruling indicates that the commission's decision was erroneous and unlawful for the following reasons:
n The commission applied an erroneous standard and geographical area in ruling on whether the project was "incongruous with the special character" of the Historic Preservation Overlay District under N.C. general statutes.
n The denial was not based on substantial competent evidence in view of the entire record.
n The commission's findings of fact were not based on substantial competent evidence in view of the entire record.
n The findings of fact did not support a conclusion that project approval should be denied.
n The commission's decision was inconsistent with applicable procedures set out in the law.
n The commission's decision was arbitrary and capricious.
The village-proposed improvement project has been in limbo since the historic preservation commission rejected it June 29 on a 4-2 vote. Opposition centered around concerns about the project's size and scale and the number of trees to be removed.
The Village Council then appealed that ruling to the Board of Adjustment, which has purview over such matters.
The vote to appeal to the Board of Adjustment was 4-1 with council member John Strickland opposing. He had hoped the council and the HPC could work out their differences without an appeal.
Village Council members have said they want to complete the planned improvements to the downtown in advance of June 2014, when Pinehurst hosts the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open in consecutive weeks.
Strickland has said in the past he favors improvements to the sand parking lot and the Green, but he has said the current plan is too big.
Wilkison said he understands that the lengthy process has been "awkward" and "ripe for criticism" at times, but added that it has worked as it is designed.
"When you have significant changes to an area as important as the Village Center, those decisions should take some time to make," Wilkison said.
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or tembrey @thepilot.com.
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