Intersection of 15-501 and 73

U.S. 15-501 between Carthage and Pinehurst is still a mostly rural highway, but development pressure has prompted county leaders to look at revising corridor standards.

Development pressure is shaping Moore County. Last year, county officials began drafting a new land-use plan to guide growth closer to municipalities and more developed areas, and looked to tighten-up ordinances for new construction on the county’s major roads.

The current highway corridor overlay district plan was adopted in 2000 and has not been updated since. Moore County Planning Director Debra Ensminger said that was akin to buying a home and doing nothing to it for 20 years while the neighborhood grew up all around it.

“We want to be on top of what is coming instead of being reactive. That is what this is about, being proactive,” Ensminger told the county commissioners during an informal work session held Wednesday. “The increase of (residential) roof tops requires an increase in commercial development. It is a must and it will take place where infrastructure is currently or where it is planned..We know (growth) is coming, it is just a matter of time.”

The newly revised draft she presented was modified slightly from a previous plan rolled out last fall. Ensminger recommends the county’s three separate overlay districts -- rural, urban and urban village -- be reduced to two categories; rural and urban transition. Both zones would extend an extra set of standards 400 feet on either side of the highway for things such as landscape buffering and setbacks.

“Our No. 1 goal is to protect the rural character of Moore County,” said Ensminger. “Agriculture is allowed in every district, it is permitted by right in every zoning district.”

Both urban transition and rural districts include a number of permitted and prohibited commercial uses. Per state law, architectural design standards are only applied to commercial structures. Also manufactured or mobile homes would not be allowed in the urban overlay district, though an existing non-conforming home could be replaced within 180 days if the proposed plan is adopted.

The revised draft removes N.C. 24/27 from the list of corridors with an overlay, but N.C. 690 has been added. U.S. 15-501 north or Carthage would see no changes while the quickly developing section of U.S. 15-501 between Carthage and Pinehurst would be updated from rural to an urban transition district. A small sliver of N.C. 22 in the Carthage area would also be updated to urban transition. Ensminger also recommended that N.C. 211 from Taylortown to the Montgomery County line in Biscoe be updated from rural to urban transition.

“What we are proposing is coming from Moore County Planning,” Ensminger said, responding to a comment made last fall by Commissioner Otis Ritter that Pinehurst, in particular, seemed to be trying to control planning decisions around its gateways. “We are looking at what is the best use. That is your decision, what that is, these are just recommendations.”

County Chairman Frank Quis noted that N.C. 211 west of Taylortown has attracted interest from developers. The proximity to the railroad on the southern side of the highway will naturally direct growth to the northern side, which is county zoned land.

Ensminger said the recommendations in the revised plan fall in line with the state Department of Transportation plans to widen N.C. 211 to a four-lane highway between West End and Holly Grove School Road. Heavy road construction work is postponed until after the 2024 U.S. Open in Pinehurst.

Commissioner Catherine Graham said with a proposed redevelopment effort at the former Little River Golf resort in Carthage, she anticipates there will be more intense development interest on U.S. 15-501 to the Pinehurst village limit.

Quis agreed, “Yes, that is an appropriate place for commercial development. But we’d rather get ahead of the curve and have some ability to direct good growth where it will benefit us all, and have some way to control some of the appearance through setbacks and landscaping.”

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