The Pinehurst Village Council heard from 10 residents — all in opposition — about the latest version of a new comprehensive long-range plan during a public hearing Wednesday afternoon.
All expressed concerns that the plan would encourage more high-density growth, especially in the rural areas just beyond the village’s borders, called the extraterritorial zoning jurisdiction. They say it does not reflect the concerns of the overwhelming majority of residents about the impacts of growth on the special character and small-town feel of the village.
Several also called on the current council to delay adoption until after the election and let the next council take action, which would give voters more say through their choices at the ballot box.
“That character you are talking about in the village is slipping away,” said Earl Ingram, who has lived in the village’s ETJ for for 45 years. “If you permit some of these changes, it is going to get away from you. I plead with you not to increase housing density in the ETJ because no one will win. The only winners will be the developers.”
Ingram, who has also been a long-time opponent of the Western Connector — which was first called a Pinehurst bypass in 1990 — said anyone who thinks a four-lane freeway through the rural countryside will someday alleviate the traffic congestion on N.C. 5 os “just whistling in the dark.”
“All you are doing is inviting developers to come,” he said. “Your ETJ is the last line of defense to protect the character you talk about.”
It was apparent from the applause that most of the few residents in the audience feel the same way.
Bob Bramwell, who was next on the list, said there was nothing more he could say since Ingram expressed how he felt.
John Webster, who also been outspoken in his opposition to the plan, opening the door to the possibility of allowing what are called conservation neighborhoods — which have high-density centers and large amount of open space — would be “a call to developers. He said the majority of residents want the density left as it is now – one home per five acres.
“We do not need to do anything else there,” he said, urging the council to listen to its residents and not the developers.
He added that even though there has been a lot of talk about character-based zoning and pattern books as a way to encourage more high-quality development, there is nothing in the plan that explains what that is.
“No one understands it,” he said. “I doubt the public wants it.”
The question now for the council is determining whether that sentiment expressed during the hearing reflects that of the majority of the village’s 17,000 residents or even the 6,800 who have participated in some way — either in person at various public events or online — since the process began more than a year ago to develop the plan.
Assistant Village Manager Natalie Hawkins noted in a memo to council that it was the consensus of seven of the 12 members of a Think Tank who attended the group’s final meeting Sept. 23 the plan “adequately reflected the extensive public input received and that the plan strikes a good balance of identifying how the Village can be preserved while also allowing for some growth to meet the needs of residents.”
The Think Tank also recommended the Village Council not delay a vote on the plan if the council is satisfied with it.
The advisory Planning and Zoning Board also unanimously recommended that the council adopt the plan — with several revisions its members proposed last month — and that it not delay action until after the election.
But Kaye Pierson questioned the validity of the advisory board’s recommendation since it “barely” had a quorum present when it voted to recommend approval. She said only six of the nine members were present and one left before the vote was taken.
She called on the council to send it back to the board for “more vetting.”
“This guiding document is too important,” she said of only five members voting to recommend it.
She agreed with other speakers who feel the plan does not reflect the concerns of most residents about the impact of growth.
She and other speakers argued that the results of voting by the nearly 500 residents who attended a two-day open house in June when the draft plan was released — which was done by placing dots on initiatives they support —has been manipulated with some of the more pro-growth ones being combined and news ones being inserted by the constants later.
Another speaker argued that the voting was nearly 9 to 1 for those favoring conservation and preservation over encouraging more growth.
“It is a flawed representation of the voice of Pinehurst citizens,” she said.
Pierson urged the council to slow things down and release another draft with all of the revisions that have been made and hold more public hearings. She said it feels like the council is “cramming this through.”
“We want to see what you have come up with,” she said. “Preserving Pinehurst is very, very precious.”
Pierson asked council members to say how they felt about the plan.
Mayor Nancy Fiorillo said she felt the council “should not be quizzed” yet since they need some time to consider the public input and decide whether additional changes need to be made.
She said the council plans to hold a final work session — which has been set for noon on Tuesday — to discuss the plan.
“By then we will have formed our opinions,” Fiorillo said.
Unless the council decides otherwise, it will vote on final adoption of the plan at its next regular business meeting on Oct. 22.
Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or firstname.lastname@example.org