Southern Pines Council Delays Zoning Vote
UPDATE: The Southern Pines Town Council has put off until Nov. 13 a vote on whether to rezone a large parcel for a mixture of development.
Council members at their Monday afternoon work session said they would take up the matter at that meeting whether to approve the concept of a 558-acre parcel adjacent to the Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club owned by the Bell family. That development calls for a mix of uses, including retail, a golf course, hotel, homes and other amenities.
See Wednesday's edition of The Pilot for full details of the Town Council's meeting.
(From Sunday's paper)
They say they want information — not protection — but some downtown Southern Pines merchants find themselves on the defensive lately on the matter of a proposed major development just up the road from them.
Last month, more than 50 downtown merchants signed a petition asking the Southern Pines Town Council for an economic and community impact study in conjunction with review of a major development on 558 acres adjacent to Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club owned by the Bell family. Part of that development could include a large retail component.
Lately, many of those merchants say they have been unfairly portrayed as being afraid of competition.
“I signed the petition for all the right reasons,” said April Eads, co-owner of Marie & Marcele, a women’s clothing and accessories store. “It wasn’t out of fear. I don’t think one person signed for that reason.”
“I think it is as much the right of the downtown business owners to ask for the study as it is for others to oppose it,” said Steve Peters, co-owner of Southern Whey. “Frankly, I think it’s good to have the conversation, because to not have the conversation can breed fear and concern.”
A source of angst for several merchants was an Internet post last month on the Moore TEA Citizens website in which Southern Pines resident Bill Cochrane identified the petitioners and said they “want to use (the) Town Council to slam the door shut on new business entrants.”
“It is not the role of government to protect the downtown merchants from competition, to shower them with crony favors, and to determine winners and losers in the marketplace,” Cochrane said.
Cochrane added that he would no longer patronize the petitioners’ businesses and urged others to do the same.
“Boycotting anything is not the answer,” Eads said. “I think it would have been a bigger mistake to not ask for the study than to not have signed (the petition) because of concern for any bad publicity it might bring.”
Claudia Miller, owner of Morgan Miller, said she was offended by Cochrane’s “negative opinions.”
“I don’t know who he is, but does he really come downtown?” Miller said. “We have very passionate, committed business owners who love this town. He was shining a very negative light on this community.”
Genevieve Walker, owner of Acorn Bakery, said Cochrane’s comments caught her off-guard.
“I was really surprised. I did not sign the petition thinking I was making a political statement,” Walker said. “It makes me wonder if he’s ever owned a business before. If he has, why would he blacklist the people in this town who try so hard to make their businesses successful?”
In an interview late last week, Cochrane said that he has never owned his own business, and doesn’t care what others think.
“I think the study is unnecessary,” he said. “It’s a very transparent effort to try to delay, and hopefully kill, the project.”
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 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.
Warren Lewis, co-owner of Chef Warren’s restaurant, said the Bell family “has always been a cornerstone in this community.”
“I’m certain that whatever they do with the land will prove their stewardship and enhance the quality of life in Moore County,” Lewis said. “Personally, I don’t know that shopping is the way to go or the way to grow, but I’m sure they’ve done their research.
“My only concern on a development here is the water shortage issue we seem to have every summer.”
The Southern Pines Planning Board recommended approval of the rezoning last month. The Town Council conducted a public hearing earlier this month, but deferred voting on the issue to ask more questions of the Bell family.
The council will revisit the rezoning request Monday at its monthly work session.
Town Manager Reagan Parsons said the council “has the ability to request additional studies” during future consideration of a detailed incremental master plan for the project.
“I think people need to understand that an incremental master plan is not necessarily one plan. With no developer on the horizon, the project could develop in phases or at different times,” Parsons said. “That raises the question of when and under what circumstances would you then do an economic impact study?”
Miller said she is for both the project and the study.
“Why not do it?” Miller said. “What we have in downtown Southern Pines is so special. There’s no other place like it. Let’s make sure our downtown is not going to be negatively affected.”
Jessica Harrelson, co-owner of Swank, said she is trying to remain neutral about the project.
“We’re not taking one side or the other. We just want information,” Harrelson said. “I’m for the study. I’m for educating ourselves.”
Jeannie Carpentier, owner of Mind Your Body Pilates, said she did not sign the petition because she was out of town at the time.
“But I would have,” Carpentier said. “It’s difficult to take a stand because the project is still in the decision process. Still, I think the town should support and defend the small businesses that make downtown Southern Pines so vibrant and successful.”
Eads said she is willing to help pay for the study.
“I think the expense should be divvied out to everyone who wants to participate. I think it’s important, but I don’t think someone else should pay for it,” she said. “The petition was a simple request of the Town Council. I don’t know who else you’d go to to get it started.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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