The Pinehurst Village Council is poised to vote Tuesday on adopting a new comprehensive long-range plan, which would bring to a close a process that began in June 2018.
The plan is intended to help the village in balancing continued growth pressures while maintaining the its character and quality of life.
Traffic, the quality of new development, stormwater runoff, preserving trees and open space, and increasing the variety of shops and businesses in the downtown rose to the top of issues residents found most important.
Council members and senior staff spent two-and-a-half hours reviewing and discussing some final adjustments and “clarifications” to the plan during a special meeting Monday afternoon.
“We have not materially changed the plan,” council member Kevin Drum said.
Assistant Village Manager Natalie Hawkins said the consultants would incorporate all of that into a final version of plan, which was to be available for public review on the village website by Friday. She asked if council members wanted adoption of the plan to be on the agenda for its regular meeting Tuesday, which begins at 4:30 p.m.
“I am comfortable with that,” council member Jack Farrell said. “I don’t know what else we could do at this point and time.”
The council heard from 10 residents — all opposing it —during a public hearing on the plan Sept 23.
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.
But council member Judy Davis said Tuesday that according to data she culled from the plan, more than 70 percent of the estimated expenses of the various recommendations are in the three categories that have garnered the most public support throughout the process —Supporting Infrastructure and Utilities, Moving Around the Village and All Things Green.
“We are being good stewards of what the people told us was important,” she said. “We are being much more responsive than we’ve been given credit for.”
Davis proposed inserting that information into the plan, both in the executive summary as well as elsewhere in more detail, to support the council’s assertion. She also wanted to include an estimated cost — which led to a sharp division among council members as well as staff members, who adamantly objected.
“That is not realistic,” Village Manager Jeff Sanborn said of the figure. “It is misleading.”
Planning Director Darryn Burich said such detailed cost estimates are not typically apart of comprehensive plans, which are more aspirational, “because there is too much uncertainty over time.” He said decisions on which ones to implement and fund would occur through the village’s five-year strategic planning process, which is used as the basis to develop the annual budgets.
“There is no way we can do all of this,” Mayor Nancy Fiorillo said of the 115 recommendations. “This is so far beyond the limited scope of the village. … It can incite our public because they will think we’re going to spend these dollars and we’re not.”
Davis’ proposal to include more information on the potential financial impact was in response to comments from a resident during the public hearing the week before. He calculations put the cost of implementing all of the recommendations at more than $13 million — which will likely be even more when personnel and other expenses are determined.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Davis said. “There is a huge financial impact.”
But Farrell pointed out that some of the proposals would likely happen anyway regardless of whether they are in a plan would be added to the budgets from year to year.
Drum said Davis put together some “great data” that could be shared with residents without attaching a cost to it.
“This shows the resources are allotted properly,” he said, proposing instead that some type of information graphic be included to show the majority of the resources are dedicated to those top three categories. ‘It directly relates to what the public said it wants.”
Farrell and Mayor Pro Team John Bouldry initially sided with Davis that the figure should be included.
“I like having the potential financial impact,” Bouldry said. “We’re not signing up to do all of them. There are constraints such as staff constraints . … But if we wanted to know where the dollars may be going, I think there is great impact (to include it). It is a potential impact. That is all it is.”
Farrell said anyone could do the same calculations as Davis to come up with a figure. He said while the data maybe “flawed” it demonstrates the plan attempts to achieve what a majority of residents say they want.
“The thing I like is we’ve heard some people testify there were so many dots on this strategy and so many here, and that your long-range plan does not correspond ti the number of dots,” he said of the open house in June. “Unbeknownst to us, we have created a plan which does correspond to the desires of the community.”
Sanborn pointed out that Davis based her calculations on the high end of the cost ranges — a “worst case” scenario. He said the main reason for including estimated cost ranges on the various strategies is to help “figure out the realistic feasibility of getting things done year over year.”
Hawkins said that as a former certified public accountant, “it makes me a little nervous” to include cost estimates at this point since there so many variables that could affect the actual expense should a future council implement them. She said the cost ranges for the various recommendations, which were denoted by the number of dollar signs attached to them in the plan, are “very broad” because of the unknowns.
She said she liked Drum’s suggestion of including a graphic and other information in the plan “to drive home” the point Davis was attempting to make about where the resources would be allocated.
Burich said that in addition to personnel expenses, some of the recommendations would also require additional study, which would also add to the overall costs.
Fiorillo said those are decisions future councils will have to make based on what residents want at the time. She said more accurate cost estimates will be developed.
“It can’t be quantified now because it is so futuristic,” she said. “To have that level of specificity that far out is inappropriate.”
Davis responded, “It is just a snapshot in time, so there is some realism.”
“This is a political answer for residents,” she said. “They said they wanted all of this and this is what it could cost. … The whole point is that 70 percent of the potential dominant expenditures are in three categories ”
Council members ultimately agreed to include the information Davis proposed but without the cost estimates.
Fiorillo said the council needs to “respect” the opinions of its professional staff who are the ones who have to “back up the figures.”
Drum agreed that is “good middle ground” that does not “put staff in a bind” down the road.
Also during the lengthy discussion, council members agreed to include information Burich presented at the public hearing to better explain character-based zoning and how it compares with conventional zoning. Several residents have argued that more information needs to be in the plan.
Burich said the village already applies “elements” of that type of zoning in the historic district as well as for commercial development. It is meant to ensure development is consistent with the surrounding community.
Fiorillo acknowledged that under currents state law, local governments cannot regulate the design of single family homes unless they are in a historic district.
“I agree there are places in the village where it may be appropriate,” she said.
Another somewhat nebulous issue in the plan is the possibility of allowing conservation neighborhoods or subdivisions in part of the ETJ. In response to public conners as well heeding the advice of its Planning and Zoning Board, the council agreed that the language should make it clear new standards would have to be developed first before the village considers possibly allowing those.
Both of those will require rewriting the Pinehurst Development to implement, which will not happen overnight. That will involve going through the normal public review process with the planning board and council once standards are developed.
Hawkins thanked the council for all of the time it has “devoted” to this process, especially the last two months in finalizing the plan, and the “healthy dialogue” that has taken place.
“I think we have a good document because we have taken all those perspectives into account,” she said, “not only yours and the staff, but also the public.”
Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or email@example.com