Pinehurst Improvements Back on Track
Plans to enhance a portion of the Village Green in Pinehurst near the library and the downtown parking lot appear ready to move forward again.
The Pinehurst Board of Adjustment ruled 5-0 Thursday in favor of the village of Pinehurst and its appeal of the village's Historic Preservation Commission's decision in June that such work was incongruous with the historic district.
The board sent the item back to the Historic Preservation Commission and ordered it to approve the project, which calls for expansion of the downtown sand parking lot and changes to the Village Green in the area near Given Memorial Library and Tufts Archives.
The Historic Preservation Com-mission now has 30 days either to comply with the ruling or appeal to Moore County Superior Court. Following Thursday's meeting, the attorney for the Historic Preservation Commission said he didn't know what was next and would confer with the commission.
The commission previously ruled that the project removed too many trees and was too big. The project has been proposed as a means to improve parking downtown, and the Village Council has hoped to get the project completed prior to the June 2014 back-to-back U.S. Opens.
No member of the Pinehurst Village Council attended Thursday's meeting. Friday morning, Mayor Nancy Fiorillo said she is hopeful that there are no hard feelings over the process moving forward.
"I am hopeful that the HPC feels they did their job," Fiorillo said. "But as the elected council, we felt there was overwhelming support for the project, and we felt an appeal was the only way to move forward."
She assured that, moving forward, the project would be carefully carried out.
Thursday, Village Attorney Mike Newman told the board there is no evidence that supports the commission's decision and said it "used the wrong test and the wrong standard in coming up with the decision that it (downtown enhancement project) was incongruous with the core nature of the village," rather than the entire Historic District.
Newman said members of the commission "got off the rails" when they discussed their feelings on the project during the hearing.
"They thought the project was too big," he said.
The commission, Newman said, has to have substantial evidence to support its findings, and there was no such evidence in the transcript.
Defense attorney John Carmichael argued that the concerns about the size of the project and the removal of too many trees - the reasons given for denying the certificate of appropriateness - were based on the design plan and its indication of the importance of trees.
He said there is clear evidence in that plan to support the fact that the parking lot is getting larger and that it is encroaching on the Village Green.
"At some point the encroachment becomes unreasonable," he argued. "That is the decision they made."
Before rendering its decision, the board briefly considered listening to input from the community, but decided against it on a recommendation from its attorney, John Silverstein, who advised that the board had the facts in the case and that comments from the public "might taint the proceedings."
Richard Ashton, chairman of the Board of Adjustment, said the commission's decision "lacked substantial factual evidence."
Other Board of Adjustment members voiced similar sentiment, prior to the vote. Kevin Hardt said as he reviewed the record in the case, including the transcript from the June 29 meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission, that subjectivity in the quasi-judicial process "blatantly comes out in the transcript.
He called that "inappropriate and improper."
"Not that it's right or wrong," Hardt said of the subjectivity. "It's just not part of the process, and it can guide us down the road to the wrong decision."
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or email@example.com.
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