The potential for school redistricting to add congestion at the Pinehurst Traffic Circle may have council members reconsidering their decision not to weigh in on the controversial issue.
Resident Kami David, who asked the council last week to weigh in, returned last Tuesday to make the council “aware of the potential impact” to the circle. She was among a group of Pinehurst parents who attended the council’s March 26 meeting in hopes of enlisting their support in opposing plans to move children in the village out of their current schools — Pinehurst Elementary and West Pine Middle.
Mayor Nancy Fiorillo told parents that the council would not be taking any official position on school redistricting, saying that it is the responsibility of the Board of Education. She said individual members were welcome to share their concerns with the school board.
David told the council that some children in Village Acres and Pinehurst No. 6 would be shifted to Southern Pines Elementary and Southern Middle, meaning more buses and cars might have to go through the Traffic Circle during peak times in the morning and afternoon.
She said she spoke with the consultants who prepared the proposed changes in attendance lines being considered by the school board and that they were unaware of the Traffic Circle. She said she had to show them where it was on the map.
“It did not factor into their map,” she said. “I invited them to sit at the circle for an afternoon and watch the traffic.
“Now that there is this potential increased traffic congestion headed to our circle every morning and every afternoon, is it now proper to make an inquiry to the Board of Education about traffic or request they do a traffic study?” David asked.
Fiorollo responded, “I think we would have to consider that. We would have to talk about that. I would like to talk with someone at the Board of Education, someone who is making those maps.”
In a fact sheet about redistricting on its website, the school district addresses transportation issues: “Once the second draft of the student assignment plan is presented in May, the Transportation Department will start to run models for bus routes. The Transportation Department will also work with the N.C. Department of Transportation on the impact on traffic congestion, particularly around the traffic circle.”
In other business, county Planning Director Debra Ensminger briefed the council on development along major highway corridors and that the county is looking into changing some of its design standards and other regulations.
County Commissioners’ Chairman Frank Quis, who was in the audience but did not speak, and Vice Chairwoman Catherine Graham met with municipal leaders on Feb. 22 to discuss ways to manage development along highway corridors.
Ensminger said some of the suggestions that came out of the meeting included finding ways to protect and preserve the “gateways” into the area — Pinehurst leaders and residents are particularly concerned with N.C. 211 and U.S. 15-501; improving the appearance of new developments; and having county zoning “mirror” municipal regulations close to their borders.
“Even before the meeting, we have been looking at our design standards,” Ensminger said, including where buildings can be placed, landscaping and signage.
Council members and some residents have expressed concerns in the past about county-approved commercial development along corridors leading into the village. One particular sore spot is the Dollar General on N.C. 211 near Juniper Lake Road.
Ensminger said while she did not intend to “poke fun” at the business, she agreed with the concerns.
“We’ve learned some lessons, where they (buildings) could have been set back a little farther,” she said. “There could have been more landscaping. These are things we have learned that we will be addressing.”
Ensminger, who will be making the same presentation to other towns that participated in the February meeting, said the county would like all of them to submit ideas and proposals by the end of June.
“We want to hear from you, what is your vision, what are your goals,” she said, “so together we can get there.”
Mayor Pro Tem John Bouldry also asked if the county would review what is allowed under its B-2 commercial zoning, which are the more intense uses. That was a particular concern of residents in the Pinewild Country Club community and council members last year when a rezoning request was submitted asking to change land to that classification on N.C. 211 across from the gated community.
Ensminger said all of that would be reviewed.
Village Manager Jeff Sanborn said earlier in the meeting that this is another example of the county and its towns cooperating.
“We are truly seeing the results of that,” he said.
Sanborn said the county recently asked the developer of a proposed shopping center on U.S. 15-501 near Juniper Lake Road to meet with village officials since the project is right on its border.
“At the end of the day the developer made three important concessions,” Sanborn said, that included a “robust landscape buffer.”
The conditions call for the developer to provide a 30-foot landscaped buffer along U.S. 15-501 and Juniper Lake Road and 20 feet along the remaining perimeter that meets its standards, and also that the landscaping in the parking lots and perimeters adhere to its zoning requirements.
The village also asked that it be allowed to provide input on proposed elevation drawings and building materials prior to the county issuing any construction permits.
“We appreciate that cooperation coming from Moore County,” Sanborn said.
And on a more recent development proposal, Sanborn said that as a result of a “deal struck” through the Tri-City work group with Southern Pines and Aberdeen, the village has been made aware of a proposed planned unit development on N.C. 5 with up to 120,000 square feet of retail and office space and 370 homes.
The 119-acre tract abuts Pinehurst’s village limits, making this project the first major subdivision to be considered since elected leaders from the three jurisdictions agreed to coordinate planning efforts when projects are located within a quarter-mile of shared borders.
The proposal was submitted late last Monday afternoon and Aberdeen reached out to the village Tuesday. The development project is likely to generate considerable concern in the village, especially the increase in traffic on N.C. 5, which is already heavily congested at times now.
Sanborn said the council could discuss the proposed development at its next work session.
Pinehurst-based developer Riley and Walker Homes will present its conceptual plan to the Aberdeen Planning Board on April 18. The site is between Olivia Lane and Linden Road, across the highway from the Sandhills Bowling Center shopping plaza.