Village Project Still Endangers National Landmark Status
Within weeks, Pinehurst will begin an ambitious and costly construction project, touted as a major improvement, to the Village Green and adjoining Old Town.
The rush to begin as soon as possible is being justified because Pinehurst is hosting two U.S. Open tournaments in 2014, and it has concluded the project will enhance appearances and increase parking in time for those major golf events.
(Planned parking/traffic enhancements in front of the Department Store Building have been put on hold.)
I wonder how many citizens realize the impact this project portends. For example, 95 mature trees will be destroyed in the vicinity of the soon-to-be-built Tufts Memorial Park, albeit some will be replanted or replaced. So when the Opens come to town, this particular part of Pinehurst may actually have a decimated look about it.
Although Pinehurst has indicated it wants the new Tufts Memorial Park to be "welcoming" and "visitor-friendly," it will offer no restroom facilities on-site to serve a public that will often be made up of families with young children. And there will be no swings, see-saws or other playground equipment to keep the kids happy. Those seem to be conspicuous omissions.
The village has failed to find a restroom solution. Most restaurants in town are not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act requirements for handicapped accessible facilities, and the Given Library, closed on Sundays, is not a viable solution.
Venerable century-old sand parking areas will be converted into asphalt-resurfaced areas to achieve a natural multi-layered rock look, which should last for several years before needing retreatment. Tests by Riley Paving may be able to replicate the hue of sand but not the texture.
Whether the National Park Service (NPS) will find this artificial surface a suitable alternative to sand is highly questionable. Historically, NPS has criticized Pinehurst for paving venerable sand walkways with bricks.
The number of parking spaces will increase from 80 to 119 after an estimated million dollars has been spent - a cost per new space of over $25,000, with most of them a good distance away from the village center, not closer. Some may ask, "Why spend $25,000 per parking space and zero on restroom facilities in the park or in Old Town?"
The big unresolved issue is the preservation of Pinehurst's treasured National Historic Landmark status. Will this ambitious project receive approval of the NPS, or will it offend its sense of past traditions? As of this writing, the village advises it "has not determined if its plans will be presented to the NPS," the federal agency charged with protecting landmarked sites, which has long placed Pinehurst on its "watch list."
The village's own Historic Preservation Commission voted (with two exceptions) against the plan's implementation, only to be overruled by its Board of Adjustment in a costly and divisive legal proceeding involving four attorneys. The commission will not appeal the ruling, which had been called improper.
Pinehurst recently hired JMA Consultants, a company that advises communities needing counsel to gain NPS support for historic renovations. JMA has consulted with Portsmouth Village, Manteo and Blue Ridge Parkway authorities. (Curiously, to date JMA has not yet been asked to review Pinehurst s plans.)
JMA will charge Pinehurst $604 every hour its full team of experts provides counsel, plus $170 a day per diems per expert. Its contract is open-ended, with no maximum fee established, and JMA has not provided estimates of consulting time anticipated.
If preserving the National Historic Landmark is a village priority, then one has to question the mayor's and Village Council's approach to this major project. Work is planned for 2013, after issuance of contracts soon. Yet if the NPS then signals that the project is offensive, what will happen next and at what cost?
Receiving a National Historic Landmark designation is a singular honor for a community and well-worth protecting, yet Pinehurst seems willing to placing it at risk. It may soon be too late for concerned citizens to make their feelings known on this critical issue.
Paul R. Dunn lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at paulandbj@ nc.rr.com.
More like this story