TEASER Pinehurst, Village Hall

(File Photo/The Pilot)

The village of Pinehurst has received another clean bill of health for the most recent fiscal year.

The village ended the year June 30 with a “modest” $8,700 surplus that was added to its reserves, called a fund balance, according to the Comprehensive Financial Audit Report presented to the Village Council during its meeting Tuesday afternoon.

John Frank with Dixon Hughes Goodman said the auditing firm gave the village a “a good clean opinion” on its finances and that they found no “material weaknesses or significant deficiencies” in its internal controls.

He noted that the village received the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association last year for the 25th consecutive year.

“That’s a real testament to financial department that you have here,” Frank told the council.

Frank said the village has $4.4 million in its fund balance that is available for spending, which equals 25 percent of the total expenditures in the budget. That exceeds the 15 percent minimum set by village policy.

The village’s total fund balance as of June 30 stood at $10.8 million, which equals 55 percent of budgeted expenditures, exceeding the policy range of 30 percent to 40 percent.

The village will be appropriating $4.5 million from the budget balance in this current fiscal year for the construction of a community center. The village had been building up money from previous budget surpluses in its reserves to pay for building the center without having to borrow money.

Because construction bids were higher than expected, the council voted last month to take an additional $335,000 from its reserves to cover the cost overrun rather than make significant changes to the building to reduce the cost.

When that money is taken out, the overall fund balance will drop to the lower range of village policy.

The village transferred $344,000 from its reserves in the previous fiscal year to hire an architectural firm to design the community center and complete construction drawings.

Frank reported that revenues were up by $266,000 last year over the previous year, the largest being an additional $132,000 from property taxes. Sales tax revenues were up by $68,000, which he said was a reflection of increased spending by visitors and general improvements in the local economy.

The village did see an $83,000 drop in revenues from building fees, which reflected a decrease in the number of new homes that were built. The village recorded 144 new homes last year compared with 160 the year before.

Frank noted that all expenditures last year were within budgeted amounts.

“Overall, very nice financial results,” he said in concluding the report.

Frank commended new Financial Services Director Brooke Hunter, who took over for John Frye after he retired earlier this year. He said everything went “very smoothly” with the transition and Hunter taking over for Frye, “ who did an excellent job for many years.”

Council members were pleased with the report.

“It is always good to get good news,” council member John Bouldry said.

In other business, the council unanimously approved two appointments to the Historic Preservation Commission.

Eric Von Salzen was appointed to replace Christine Dandenau effective Jan. 1. Terry Lurtz will join the commission Feb. 1, replacing Bob Farren.

Mayor Nancy Fiorillo said the council members received the biographical information on both men.

“Very impressive bios,” she said.

She thanked Historic Preservation Commission Chairwoman Molly Gwinn for her work interviewing them and recommending them for appointments.

Council member Judy Davis noted that both have backgrounds in historic preservation and that it will be “very beneficial to us.”

Bouldry added that these are “important” positions in the village. He said both men’s “attention to detail will be appreciated not only by us, but also the residents.

During the time for public comments at the end of the brief meeting, resident Tom Campbell asked whether there been any further discussions with Pinehurst Medical about any interest in reconsidering its decision to withdraw its application to build a new office in the village.

Fiorillo responded that Pinehurst Medical is currently looking a site in another municipality.

“That is about all we know,” she said.

Pinehurst Medical did not give a reason for withdrawing its application in a Nov. 19 letter to the village. It had proposed building a 32,400-square-foot, two-story facility called the Greens at Pinehurst at the corner of McCaskill Road and Rattlesnake Trail.

It would have housed its dermatology, endocrinology and rheumatology practices.

But before the project could proceed, the village had to rezone the land since medical offices are not among the uses allowed under the current Village Mixed-Use zoning district. Pinehurst Medical was asking the village to change the zoning to Neighborhood Commercial-Conditional District, which allows medical offices.

The proposal ran into opposition at the council’s public hearing Nov. 13. Rezoning opponents argued that the site was not an appropriate location for a large medical office building, which would sit opposite of the Greens at Arboretum apartments.

The council’s approval of the rezoning and site plan two years that allowed the 72-unit apartment complex stirred animosity among a number of residents, especially those who live around the affected area.

After nearly three hours of public comment and discussion, the council voted to delay action until its Dec. 11 meeting to have more time to consider all of the issues and concerns.

The 2.84-acre site is the second phase of a site plan the Village Council approved when it rezoned the entire tract in 2016. The second phase called for up to a 35,000-square-foot building that would have a mix of retail and offices.

Resident Kaye Pierson asked the council to delay action on a proposal now being considered by the Planning and Zoning Board to reduce the minimum square footage requirement for town homes and other multifamily housing from 1,500 to 750-square feet of heated space for a one-bedroom until.

A subcommittee of the advisory board recommended that the ordinance also specify that a two-bedroom unit must have a minimum of 1,000 square feet of heated space and that a three-bedroom unit must have 1,250 square feet.

The board held a public hearing on the proposal at its Dec. 6 meeting, but decided to continue the hearing at its Jan. 3 meeting.

The council will have the final say on whether to approve the change. It had asked the Planning and Zoning Board to look into whether a change is needed base on some of the more recent multi-family proposals the village has received.

Pierson said after listening to concerns expressed by residents at the board’s hearing, “it was evident more study, data and/or information was needed to continue the process.”

She added that state law also requires that a local must determine whether a proposed change to its zoning ordinance is “consistent” with its comprehensive long-range plan. The current plan was adopted in 2010, but the village is in the process of developing a new long-range plan that will be finished next summer.

Pierson said this proposal should be delayed until the village completes the process of adopting a new plan.

“This proposed text amendment appears to be a short-term solution with long-term affects that would encourage uncontrolled growth instead of the present comprehensive plan’s guiding statement of orderly growth,” she said.

Council members did not respond after Pierson spoke. But Kevin Drum addressed it at the end of a brief work session that followed the business meeting.

“I thought we kind of agreed to slow down on that square footage thing,” he said. “I don’t agree with everything she said. We already internally agreed and we don’t have to move that quickly on that.”

Fiorillo agreed, but she said the proposal is in response to what is happening in the market.

“The way I look at it, if there isn’t a market for a 750-square-foot apartment, someone will get caught with their pants down,” she said.

Drun reiterated that the village does not need to rush this.

Planning and Zoning Board Chairman Leo Santowasso said in response to a question from Fiorillo that the board has been studying this for a year and a half. Drum injected that he was a member of the planning board when this started.

Fiorillo said the council needs to wait and see what the full board decided to recommend.

“Again if there is no market for something, nobody is going to rent it,” she said. “People who study the market probably know a little more that we know. … People are opting for less living space to have more disposable income to travel and to do this and that. It is happing here. It is happening all over the country.”

Drum injected, “Quality is what we are looking for.”

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