In the maiden run of a cooperative agreement with two of its neighboring towns, the Pinehurst Village Council has registered its opposition to “an enormous” development proposed off N.C. 5 just over the border in Aberdeen.
Pinehurst-based developer Riley and Walker Homes has proposed a 119-acre project that would include 120,000 square feet of retail and office space and 370 homes — with a mix of townhomes, cottages and single-family lots.
The site is located between Olivia Lane and Linden Road, across the highway from the Sandhills Bowling Center shopping plaza, and abuts Pinehurst’s village limits.
Pinehurst, Aberdeen and Southern Pines agreed earlier this year on a formalized approach to exchange information on new development when they are located within a quarter-mile of shared borders. The agreement does not require consensus from the surrounding towns for proposed projects to move forward.
Village Council members expressed concerns about the density and the increased traffic on an already congested N.C. 5. That echoes concerns aired by a number of Pinehurst residents — mainly those living in the Country Club of North Carolina, which adjoins the site — during a public hearing by the Aberdeen Planning Board on April 18. That board voted following the hearing to recommend that the Aberdeen town commissioners reject the proposed development.
“I am very glad the Aberdeen Planning Board turned it down,” Fiorillo said to some applause during the council discussion. “It is enormous. … It is a very large development on a very, very busy road. I just don’t see how the infrastructure could possibly handle this.”
Council members unanimously agreed to support the Aberdeen Planning Board’s decision. The village plans to send a letter to Aberdeen before the town Board of Commissioners considers the proposal next month.
“This being the first time we are doing this, it’s about all we can do,” Fiorillo said of sending the letter. “I think it is pretty obvious how we all feel about this development.”
The council’s opinion is non-binding and carries no weight into the project’s future.
Council members also agreed during a lengthy discussion that the village needs to develop a process for how it will respond to future development proposals from the two towns as well as how it will go about providing information to them when it receive a development proposal on land along their borders.
Village Manager Jeff Sanborn said the agreement between the three towns does not specify a mechanism. He acknowledged that by the time Aberdeen notified the village that a formal development plan had been submitted, which happened a few hours before the council’s April 9 meeting, it did not give them much time to review it.
“It was the first of its kind,” he said. “But it is a pretty big deal.”
Sanborn said that even though the Aberdeen Planning Board has already met, there is still time for the council to discuss it and offer any comments.
“I think that one of this size, it is appropriate for council to consider if you have comments that we can pass along in a friendly way to our partners,” he said.
Council member Kevin Drum, one of the village’s elected representatives to the Tri-Cities work group, said he would have preferred to hear input from the village staff and the advisory Planning and Zoning Board in reaching a consensus on the village’s input.
Sanborn said that was not possible, at least on a formal basis, given the timing of when the village received notification from Aberdeen. He agreed that should be part of process in handling future cases.
Mayor Pro rem John Bouldry said that given the “scale and magnitude” of this proposed development, density and increased traffic are “huge issues we commonly share.” He said N.C Department of Transportation officials have said the earliest any improvements will be made to N.C. 5 is in 2022, and it will be on the Aberdeen end.
A new elementary school is being built on N.C. 5 in Aberdeen and will open in 2021.
Bouldry questioned whether this area could handle this kind of development.
“We are woefully behind developers and builders with respect to the implementation of infrastructure improvements … and what we can support” he said. “So there is a real challenge for us.”
Council member Jack Farrell said he attended the Aberdeen Planning Board hearing but did not feel like he had the consensus from his fellow members to speak. He said he shared his opinions afterward and noted that most of the people who spoke at the hearing were CCNC residents.
“So they probably heard from Pinehurst in a different way, not necessarily an official but certainly a lot of residents,” Farrell said.
Farrell said under normal circumstances when the village receives information from one of the other towns, there should be enough time prior to a Planning Board hearing for the village to gather input from its staff and its own Planning and Zoning Board to provide to the council in reaching a consensus.
“We need to come back with thoughtful, considered input that could be mutually agreed upon,” Drum said, adding that he wants to have the input from staff and the Planning and Zoning Board. “We just need to make sure we don’t cross the line. It’s their territory. We have to keep that mutual respect.”
Council member Judy Davis said the village needs to find the most effective way to convey its comments before another town holds its hearings “to the extent that we can influence and reinforce the views of our citizens.”
Sanborn asked the council to let the village staff work on developing a process for the council to consider.
“This is the first case,” he said. “We are learning.”
Fiorillo said the village should have a much better process in place the next time Southern Pines or Aberdeen shares information on a development plan. Davis added that once the village develops a process it could share it with the other two towns and “really come to some formal accord so that we aren’t doing this on the fly.”
Davis said most likely the next one will be a developer’s proposed plan for a gated apartment complex with 288 units just over the border in Southern Pines where a previous developer had wanted to build a shopping center presumably to be anchored by a Publix grocery store .
The 31-acre tract stretches from Morganton Road — across from the entrance gates to CCNC — and U.S. 15-501
The shopping center development plan sparked widespread opposition from Pinehurst, especially CCNC, because of concerns about the increased traffic on Morganton Road.
Davis said the village sent a letter to the Southern Pines Town Council outlining concerns raised by its residents. That development plan was ultimately abandoned.
She said the current developer has made “overtures to CCNC” on the apartment complex, which is expected to go before the Southern Pines Planning Board next month.
“We are going to be in a similar situation with Southern Pines again,” Davis said.
Drum said it is “important to recognize” that the three towns now have a more formal process in place to share information and seek opinions from their neighbors.
“Let’s appreciate that it exists, that we are having inter-local discussions between municipalities,” he said. “We’ll figure out the process. We have to respect that it is their jurisdiction. Want them to respect ours. We want to respect theirs. I think there is a way to get as close to that line without crossing it.”