Several dozen Southern Pines residents turned out at Thursday’s meeting of the Southern Pines Planning Board in a show of opposition to a proposed apartment complex off U.S. 1.
Ten property owners spoke during the scheduled public forum to express concern about traffic impacts, noise and light pollution. As presented, plans for Patrick's Pointe call for a 276-unit apartment complex with an office building outparcel on the east side of U.S. 1, between Pennsylvania Avenue and Midland Road.
“This is deja vu all over again,” said David Sullivan, president of the Village in the Green homeowners association. “Conceptually this plan is not compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods.”
The sloped, mostly wooded property is located in the town’s Highway Corridor Overlay and zoned for office services, which allows for mixed use development. The tract fronts a service road along U.S. 1 and backs up to two existing neighborhoods, including Village in the Green.
In the mid-2000s, the same site was the subject of a protracted six-year legal battle between the town and Leith Automotive, which wanted to build an auto dealership on the site. The crux of the issue was the town’s decision to “downzone” the site from a general business designation, which would have allowed an auto dealership, to less intensive uses permitted under office services.
More recently, a 288-unit apartment complex was proposed on the site in 2016. Town leaders voted to deny that project. The applicant, Fayetteville-based Caviness and Cates, filed a legal appeal before eventually dropping its plans.
The new proposal brought forward by 1700, LLC, offers a slightly modified design that is predominantly apartments but also includes an office building outparcel. The company is owned by Logan and Charlotte Burnett, who are both Army veterans who lived in Southern Pines while stationed at Fort Bragg.
“We truly believe this project lends tremendous value to the community,” Logan Burnett said, noting the couple had come to love the community during their time living locally. “In 2013, Southern Pines was less busy and it was more financially accessible. But the word had gotten out. Since then you’ve seen more lot splits and rising housing prices. It has become difficult for young professionals to buy homes close to downtown.”
Burnett said Patrick’s Pointe would provide additional upscale living options within walking distance to the Broad Street area for military families and others looking to move to the community.
He compared the proposed complex to the Legends at Morganton, which is undergoing expansion, and the new Eagle Landing development off U.S. 15-501 in Southern Pines. Rental pricing would be set by the market, Burnett said, but estimated a one-bedroom unit would rent for approximately $1,200. In military parlance, the pricing is comparable to housing allowances for an E5 service member with dependents.
“It is important to recognize that housing prices in Southern Pines have really escalated lately. That is why it is important to bring new products to the area,” he said.
Land use attorney Nick Robinson, speaking on behalf of the applicant, noted the special use permit required under town ordinances does not require rezoning the site. He also said the site design meets town standards for setbacks, buffers, height and proposed parking spaces.
“This is a standard planning-101 concept,” Robinson said, referring to a project that provides a gradual transition between intense uses on U.S. 1 and less intense residential areas. “This use is exactly what the zoning calls for in this location.
“Creating workforce housing in Southern Pines goes hand-in-glove with the comprehensive long range plan. The bottom line is all of the findings are met. What is proposed is 100 percent allowed in the zoning district.”
Sullivan suggested if the density of the proposed plans was scaled back a bit — he recommended a design that incorporates two-story rather than three-story apartment buildings — plus the addition of a 10-foot brick decorative wall between the two developments, there would be less opposition to the plan.
“Maybe that would work and maybe I wouldn’t be as vigorously opposed to this plan when it gets to the town council,” Sullivan said.
Other speakers said they were worried about traffic impacts, particularly for vehicles exiting the development onto U.S. 1, and increasing congestion along North Saylor Street and Midland Road.
“I’m not sure if this is a chicken-or-egg situation. I can’t tell if the land was bought and this plan conceived or the other way around, but it’s obvious it is not congruent,” said neighboring property owner Nancy Andrews. “It looks like they want to jam pack things in and check all the boxes...Don’t make me pay for something that you didn’t plan for well.”
Bob Koontz of Koontz Jones Design also presented on behalf of 1700, LLC. He noted the site would be permitted up to 70 percent impervious surface but the plans only called for 49 percent built-upon area. The site plan protects a designated wetland area and was designed to limit the number of proposed buildings along the shared property line with the Village in the Green community.
Following discussion, the Southern Pines Planning Board prepared a list of considerations to forward to the Town Council as part of its formal review process.
The Southern Pines Town Council will consider the special use permit during a public hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 14, at 6 p.m., at the Douglass Community Center, 1185 W. Pennsylvania Ave., Southern Pines.