TEASER Pinehurst, Village Hall

(File Photo/The Pilot)

The Pinehurst Village Council on Tuesday afternoon unanimously adopted a new comprehensive long-range plan, bringing to a close a process that began more than a year ago.

The plan is intended to help the village in balancing continued growth pressures while maintaining 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 Oct. 16. That capped a number of meetings and work sessions held over the last two months to finalize the plan.

“This has been a long process,” said Mayor Pro Tem John Bouldry, who made the motion to approve the plan. “At the end of the day, this document sets the table for future councils to see where the village should be going and would like to go. It is a humongous, giant step forward from the 2010 plan, particularly with respect to land use and what should be protected. … I am pleased with how this document came out.”

Council member Judy Davis said that since June when the draft plan was released a two-day open house the council and the community have “debated ideas rather frequently and vigorously.” She said she was “especially grateful” for the comments made by several residents at a public hearing on plan Oct. 9.

“Because it made me look again at the work with a different lens,” Davis said.

The council heard from 10 residents — all opposing it. 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 said 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.

During the council discussion Oct. 16, Davis said 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 garnered the most public support throughout the process —supporting infrastructure and utilities, traffic and transportation, and open space and parks.

“From my perspective, there is a strong resonance with the citizen input that revealed itself in the bevy of the strategic initiatives that may come forward over time,” she said. “We have new ideas, golf by day and art by night, to mention just one. We have new areas of focus. We have new possibilities that can help preserve our special character.

“So we are going to follow that character-based zoning and see if there is a really pony we can ride.”

Davis said this plan is “really a visioning document and not a crisp business plan.”

“It is the tip of the iceberg, setting the table as John Bouldry said, and the hard work of the specific plans that this document may spawn is the work of the future,” she said.

Council member Jack Farrell said that as Mayor Nancy Fiorillo could attest, he is “not one to be reticent” about expressing his opinions over the years if he felt “the character of the community was in anyway jeopardized.” He said he was skeptical in the beginning, especially when the first draft of the plan was released in June.

“I agreed with many residents who felt it was a little too growth oriented and it was a little too new urbanism,” he said. “I think we did a fairly substantial job in modifying that so that it more reflects the feelings of the community.”

Farrell said he went back and reviewed all of the objections raised at the public hearing earlier this month. He said the council “took those to heart” during its Oct. 16 work session and made some changes that were intended to address those concerns.

He said he initially was leaning toward delaying approval of the plan and allowing the next council to adopt it, which a number of residents urged them to do.

“But the longer I got into it, the more I realized that we had done a fairly good job,” he said. “I’d be happy to leave it to the next council, if they genuinely feel there is something that needs modification, they have the ability to do that. I am very comfortable with that.”

Farrell said he went back and read the 2010 comprehensive plan and found that “it is aggressive in how it deals with the ETJ, far more aggressive that the current plan is.”

“So I think we’ve actually been more cautious and conservative with regard to a number of things,” he said. “I am very comfortable that this turned out to be a document that we can live with.”

The new plan calls for leaving the density in the ETJ at the current one home per five acres, but it opens the door to possibly allowing what are called “conservation neighborhoods” that have high density residential and commercial centers, with larger lots and up tp 50 percent open space around them.

That concept is contingent on the village developing and adopting standards for character-based zoning, which would require a major rewrite of the development ordinance.

Council member Kevin Drum said this has been “a hard” process at times.

“I think a lot of the attention of the public was on one of the strategic opportunities,” he said. “I think maybe the other ones didn’t get enough attention. … The dominant theme of this document has nothing to do with growth. I think it is unfortunate that it got all of the attention.

“I am really proud of our direction, trying to move toward character-based zoning. I think it is going to be the legacy of all of us sitting up here. I am really proud to have my name on it.”

Fiorillo said she was pleased that all of her colleagues on council were able to support the final plan.

“There has been some rough and tumble up here, you better believe it,” she said, adding that the council made some “minor changes, minor tweaks” to the plan.

“It is a great pleasure to find on a large project like this that we all can support it,” she said. “Certainly we all have our different viewpoints of our beautiful village and what lies ahead.

“There are some ideas in here of what can lie ahead. The next council will be in charge, along with the planning board and the staff, of making sure those proposals come to reality. And some will never see the light of day, and that is as it should be.”

Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or dsinclair@thepilot.com

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