Southern Pines Council Weighs Major Project
Faced with a major decision over the rezoning of a prominent piece of land, the Southern Pines Town Council has chosen to take its time and ask more questions of developers.
Tuesday night, the council took up a 558-acre rezoning adjacent to Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club which could, at build-out, create a major retail destination, add more homes, a golf course and hotel.
A key issue for council members was the difference between a conceptual master plan and an incremental master plan for the Bell family’s request to rezone the property.
“With a conceptual master plan, you are not approving mass. You are approving character,” said Bart Nuckols, planning director for Southern Pines. “The incremental master plan requires more detail.”
Nuckols was responding to inquiries by council member Chris Smithson, who said he was trying to wrap his hands around a “worst-case” scenario.
“I’m worried about what could happen,” Smithson said. “I like most of the intent of the conceptual master plan. It’s generally pretty good.”
Kelly Miller, president and CEO of Pine Needles and Mid Pines, said the Bell family intends to exceed town standards wherever possible.
“We’re well aware of the critical importance of this land as a gateway to Southern Pines,” Miller said. “We’re very concerned about how it’s developed.”
The Southern Pines Town Council completed the public hearing last Tuesday, but deferred voting on the issue so council members can submit questions.
“If we have more questions, I think they need to be ironed out before we vote,” council member Fred Walden said.
Council members were asked to submit their questions to Town Manager Reagan Parsons by Oct. 16 so Parsons can forward them to the Bell family for answers.
The council will revisit the rezoning request at its monthly work session on Oct. 22, at which time it may vote on the matter.
Miller said he expects the difference between the plans to be “sorted out.”
“We’ll go to the work session, listen to what they have to say and respond to their comments,” Miller said. “Then, hopefully, we’ll be approved.”
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 submitted a conceptual 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 Southern Pines Planning Board recommended approval of the rezoning last month. But the board would like the council to grant two provisions not currently required: that the board be allowed to review the incremental master plan, and that an economic assessment of the development be conducted.
Earlier this year, more than 50 downtown Southern Pines merchants signed a petition asking the council for an economic impact study because the group believes such a study would determine how a large retail component on the Knollwood Tract might affect their shops.
Several speakers at last Tuesday’s public hearing urged the council to conduct the study or accept the Planning Board’s recommendation.
“I think it’s within your purview to require more information before this is let out of the gate,” said Jeffrey Sheer, a gemologist. “How are we going to get there? The devil is in the details. We all know that.
“It’s real easy to take something for granted that’s always been there. Don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg.”
Marsh Smith, an environmental attorney, urged the council to table the rezoning request until the town finishes updating its Unified Development Ordinance.
“So we can protect the crown jewel — the downtown business district,” Smith said.
Supporters of the rezoning also understand the magnitude.
“The significance of this project cannot be overestimated,” said Pat Corso, executive director of Moore County Partners in Progress. “It provides the county with another arrow in our quiver.”
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.
In addition to the golf course, recreation areas would include walking trails, horse riding trails and golf practice areas.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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