A local bill filed in the N.C. Senate this week aims to end the ongoing development moratorium in parts of Pinehurst before the village fully implements its two new small area plans.
State Sen. Tom McInnis filed the bill on Wednesday, two years after the Village Council closed its approval pipeline to applications for new commercial development in two areas comprising about 400 acres of the village. McInnis lives in Pinehurst and represents Moore County in the state Senate.
That initial nine-month moratorium was set to end in November 2021, but has since been extended five times through council votes. As it stands the moratorium in effect on the Rattlesnake Trail corridor known as Village Place ends on May 5. In the Pinehurst South area on N.C. 5 it’s scheduled to expire June 4.
“The Village has many ways of protecting the citizens with zoning laws and regulations, so there is no immediate threat which requires such action as a moratorium that has lasted for over two years,” McInnis said in a statement to The Pilot.
“While their excuse has been the need to rewrite their zoning laws, 60 days would be a sufficient timeline to do so.”
If passed, the bill would end the current moratorium and prevent the village from implementing any new development moratorium affecting any or all of the same area for five years. Any other moratorium in Pinehurst would be limited to 60 days with no mechanism for extending it.
The state’s existing statutes on development moratoria do not establish a firm limit on their term or extensions. Local governments seeking to implement them are required to hold public hearings beforehand.
Mayor John Strickland said that the village has followed state laws in its adoption and extension of both moratoria. The Village Council has held public hearings before voting on each of the five extensions. Several of them have gone by without comment, and residents who do speak have generally been in favor of the extensions.
“As far as I know, we haven’t had any applicants or people interested in Pinehurst South or Village Place complain to us,” Strickland said after the bill was filed
“We’re following all the paths that we’re supposed to follow in conducting the moratorium and extending it, so I don’t have any idea why this legislation would be necessary and why it's targeted on Pinehurst.”
As filed, the bill applies only to Pinehurst’s municipal limits and extraterritorial jurisdiction, but McInnis said that new limits on all local governments’ ability to block development would not be “out of the question.”
“The immediate need for my district, and the citizens that I represent that have been abused because of the elongated time that this moratorium has been in place, caused me to seek an immediate relief for those citizens,” he said in an interview this week.
“I’m doing this purely because of the calls and the complaints that I’ve received from not only the business community, but from individual citizens whose lives have been encumbered.”
The last two extensions of the moratorium, in September and most recently last month, were approved by split council votes. Councilmembers Lydia Boesch and Jeff Morgan voted against both sets of extensions.
But the rest of the Village Council has voted to hold off on approving new development even though they adopted small area plans for both Pinehurst South and Village Place last year. Those plans sketch out how new streets, residential and commercial buildings could fill out both areas, which Pinehurst’s 2019 comprehensive land use plan highlighted, in the next 30 to 50 years.
The Village Council and Pinehurst’s planning and zoning board are in the process of developing strict development regulations called form-based codes to hold any future developers to that blueprint. Those codes will cover everything from zoning to building height and streetscape design.
In its ordinances extending the moratoria, Pinehurst has argued that reopening its approval process to new development projects before it adopts form-based codes “may result in development incompatible and incongruous with the intended character and vision” for Village Place and Pinehurst South.
But McInnis said that property owners have the right to proceed with development projects under the village’s current ordinances.
“I think nine months was excessive, because they're in the business of regulating the development of property, the zoning restrictions, the conditional use requirements,” he said.
“They already have these in place and what they could have been doing in developing new rules and regulations for two years is baffling to me.”
His bill would also increase the public hearing requirements for future commercial development moratoria in Pinehurst. It would require the Village Council to hold a total of four public hearings: two at Village Hall and two at a venue located where the moratorium would go into place.
As of the last extension, village staff did not have a target date for completion of the form-based codes. The codes for Village Place are ahead of those for Pinehurst South. The delay in approving the small area plans themselves has been blamed on turnover in the village’s planning staff and the amount of time involved in developing Pinehurst’s short-term rental ordinance last year.
There was also a delay of several months — four for Village Place and seven for Pinehurst South — in the Village Council’s approval of the small area plans after they were first presented in February of 2022.
“It’s gone on a bit longer than we thought it might, but there have been reasons for that,” Strickland said.
“We haven’t had these sorts of moratoriums in the past but we haven’t had places like Village Place and Pinehurst South to consider, which are extremely important to the village and our residents. There’s been good public interest in Pinehurst South and Village Place as these small area plans have been developed.”
McInnis’ bill was filed with three co-sponsors: Bobby Hanig (R-Currituck), Timothy D. Moffitt (R-Henderson) and Jim Perry (R-Lenoir). It was referred on Thursday to the state Senate’s rules and operations committee.
What is it about State Republicans? They wanting bring back national issues to state control and the same with local issues.
This appears to clearly be a local issue and if the residents of Pinehurst have issues with the timing of the moratorium, then we need to change the council. State legislation is clearly meddling in local business.
Jim, hope all is well. With all due respect, when local politicians abuse a state law, maybe they should be reeled in by Raleigh. I’d say if it was your land, and all you could do with it for the last two plus years (with no end in sight) is just pay taxes, I think you’d have a different perspective. Pinehurst has had plenty of time to accomplish a small area plan, except they got distracted with Vacation Rentals and local legislation on Christmas lights. I hope in additional to the local bill in Raleigh, that the legislature goes back and puts hard limits on any moratorium (or ban moratoriums completely). Trampling property rights should not be allowed.
Pat, you must not have understood what Bob said that I agreed with (or maybe it could have somehow been taken two different ways) ...both of us are completly agreeing with what you just stated. Here, I will give you the same shoutout I gave Bob...I fully support and echo Pat's sentiment!
Agreed! Wouldn't it be nice if all citizens could enact laws to prevent their neighbors from doing whatever they don't like. Tom McInnis is out of line.
Pinehurst residents/taxpayers deserve more responsive leadership across the board.
I fully support and echo Bob's sentiment!!
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