SP Board Clears Bell Family Project for Approval
The Southern Pines Planning Board has recommended approval of the Bell family’s request to rezone 558 acres adjacent to Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club.
But the board would like the Southern Pines Town Council to grant two provisions not currently required: that the board be allowed to review the Incremental Master Plan (IMP), and that an economic impact assessment be conducted.
“We know this development is going to impact downtown Southern Pines. We just don’t know how,” board member Jim Curlee said.
Board member Michael Martin opposed requiring the study.
“I don’t think it’s our place,” Martin said.
The council will have the final say on the rezoning request after also conducting a public hearing. Town Manager Reagan Parsons said Thursday that the issue will be on the Oct. 9 agenda.
Kelly Miller, president and CEO of Pine Needles and Mid Pines, said the family is “obviously happy.”
“We appreciate what the Planning Board did in terms of taking a look at our request, listening to the input during the public hearing, and recommending to approve it,” Miller said. “We now look forward to working with the Town Council and moving forward. This is just the start of it.”
The undeveloped land, known as the Knollwood Tract, is located near the intersection of U.S. 1 and N.C. 2. 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).
Board member Gerard Ridzon said he believes the rezoning, if approved, would be “an absolute improvement” because the range of permitted uses would be more suitable to the property.
“There are some questions, without question, but they can’t be answered until there is an Incremental Master Plan,” Ridzon said.
The board voted 6-0 — member Elizabeth Lyerly was absent — to recommend approval of the rezoning after completing a public hearing carried over from August.
Dr. James Tart, a retired cardiologist, said he had known the Bell family since moving to Moore County in 1972.
“The family is known for its honesty and integrity,” Tart said. “They have earned our trust and respect.”
Michael Henry, a local orthodontist, said he expected the family to put together a “thoughtful” project that would enhance the quality of life and increase the tax base in Southern Pines.
“Their track record is well-known and should speak for itself,” Henry said.
Danny Adams, a local contractor, said he hoped that the project isn’t “nitpicked to failure.”
“I think you’ve got great folks behind it who care,” Adams said. “They’re local. They live here. And we need the jobs.”
The only person to speak Thursday against the rezoning was Marsh Smith, an environmental lawyer who lamented the potential negative impacts on water quality and traffic flow, as well as the aesthetic loss along Camp Easter Road.
“Most of the land between Belle Meade and Lakeview along that road is farm and forest,” Smith said. “That corridor is a precious asset, and this development threatens it.”
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.
The Broad Street Merchant Community last month presented the Town Council with a petition asking the town to conduct —or have conducted — an economic and community impact study in conjunction with review of a major development on the Knollwood Tract. The group believes such a study would determine how a large retail component might affect their shops.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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