Many Pinehurst residents are not shy about sharing their feelings on growth.
Some want to pull up the welcome mat now, while others feel it can and should be accommodated as long as it well-managed.
On Wednesday, more than 200 residents took part in two “visioning” sessions at Village Hall for some hands-on involvement in the long process of developing a comprehensive long-range planning to replace one done in 2010. One the functions of the plan to guide decisions on future growth and development.
The plan will address a wide range of other issues beyond growth, including traffic and transportation, housing options, parks and recreation facilities and design standards, among others.
But some of the more impassioned discussion and debate occurred over the question of future growth during the two sessions.
Craig Dozois, who moved to Pinehurst a year ago and attended the morning session, said the village needs to preserve what makes it special and attracted people like him.
“That is the reason I came here,” he said. “We need to preserve what we have. I don’t want to change it. I am not saying don’t grow, but any growth needs to be tightly controlled.”
Some said the village cannot stop existing lots from being developed, but that it should not allow more new development.
“You can’t stop this,” Dianna Ball said, pointing to residential areas with undeveloped lots. “But we don’t need to double the mess we have now.”
Dozois said the infrastructure — primarily roads — cannot handle what is here now.
“It will just explode in the future if we do not do something about it,” he said.
But Matt Noonkester with City Explained, one of the consulting firms working on the project, said the village may not be able to completely halt growth.
“They are coming to Moore County regardless,” he said. “The market is telling you Pinehurst will continue to grow. It is just like it was when you moved here.”
Noonkester said people have a tendency to want to pull up the draw bridge after they get somewhere.
Ball responded, “People can buy the existing lots and vacant homes, but why allow more to be built.” She added that traffic “is terrible now.”
“I just hate the growth,” said Maureen Brophy. “It just totally ruins the atmosphere of the village.”
Noonkester said that short of the village buying up vacant land, there is little it can do to completely stop growth and prevent someone from using their property.
Jackie Curley said another option for the village to limit growth would be to rezone some of the existing undeveloped areas to require larger lots, which would result in fewer homes.
“If I wanted to be in Pinehurst, I’d buy an existing home,” she said. “It is supply and demand. Once it fills up, what is there, that is Pinehurst.”
But changing the zoning to limit a person’s use of their property could put the village on shaky legal ground in terms of whether that would amount to a “taking.”
Mary Sayers asked how much more the village would grow if just the existing lots were developed and nothing new was allowed.
Roughly 1,874 undeveloped lots remain, many of which were platted in the 1970s after Diamondhead Corp. bought Pinehurst from the founding Tufts family. The village estimates that about 70 percent of the remaining lots can still be built on.
If the village continues at a projected clip of 120 homes a year — which is the projection for at least the next three years — that inventory will be depleted in 2029 or 2030, according to information from the Village Council’s strategic planning retreat last December.
As part of the exercise, residents were asked to put down different colored Lego blocks for where they wanted various types of growth to occur.
As their group was completing that portion of the event, Curley joked, “We’re frustrated. We don’t want to put down any more Legos.”
During the evening session, several residents questioned what type of density the consultants envisioned as they contemplated where they would like to see that kind of growth occur.
Noonkester said the issue of types of density would come later in the process, but several residents said that is a key component for them in figuring out where residential growth should occur.
“This is too simplistic,” said Jason Kaufman. “Density is kind of important.”
When the question was raised about what will happen when the existing inventory of lots are developed, a woman who did not want to give her name said, “We don’t want more growth.”
But Kaufman said that is not really realistic.
“It is going to happen no matter what,” he said.
Jason Johnson, who owns The Corner Store in the downtown, was adamant about bringing more businesses into the village center and moving offices elsewhere. He also new development should be prohibited or at the very least strictly controlled in the historic village center.
He said the village center is beautiful village but he worries that it is “dying” as more offices take up space downtown and do attract people.
“We need as many businesses as possible (downtown), and move the office as far out as possible,” he said.
Kaufman said it is “basically becoming an office park.”
Johnson, who was born and raised in Pinehurst, said the village was “more vibrant” when he was growing up.
“There was a reason to come to the village,” he said the downtown.
Another woman who did not identify herself responded that people who live in the outer areas of the village are probably not coming downtown any way.
Mark Spain, who has lived in the village since 1999, said he felt it was important to attend one of the sessions to offer input on such an important topic. He said he has seen the changes in those 18 years, both good and bad.
“The stakes are a little higher,” he said. “Everyone is concerned about growth, how to deal with, how to deal with the younger families moving here. You can’t stop it. A lot of people want to do that. I don’t think you can. You can manage it.”
He said he noticed things really started changing after the first U.S. Open in Pinehurst in 1999.
“People got a good look at this place and they wanted to come here,” he said.
Spain said he was pleased to see the large turnout Wednesday evening.
“This is encouraging that so many people care about the future of the village and protecting it,” he said. “People are engaged. They feel like they have a voice.”
Spain said he is not against new development, even closer into the village center. He noted that soon after construction began on the much-maligned Greens at the Arboretum apartments, Pinehurst Resort announced plans for the multi-million renovation of the old steam plant into a microbrewery and pub.
“We need to bring people into the village,” he said.
Barb Cohen was also among those who believes the village can have well-managed growth while preserving the village’s unique feeling.
“It is going to happen,” she said of the growth. “We just need to be ready for it. People come here for the aesthetic beauty, and we need to protect that. Everyone wants to maintain that. This is such a wonderful place. That is why we came here to retire. We have to grow properly, otherwise what we have here will die.”
Joann Hunter, whose husband is in the military, was among some of the younger adults who took part. She said more people need to live in the downtown.
“We are losing them to Southern Pines,” she said.
She and her husband moved here from Fort Hood in Texas. She said they were turned off by the increasing number of developments with “tract” or “cookie-cutter” homes.
Hunter said they were attracted by the beauty of this area, diversity of housing type, and good schools, and also because it is safe.
“We never really cared about some of the other places we have lived, but we plan to be here for a while, so we want to help protect what we have. I am not anti-growth. If you don’t plan for it, it is going to happen anyway. This is great place for families and a great to raise children. The secret is out. We need to be ready for it.”
Other Important Issues
In addition to the question of future growth, residents offered opinions and ideas through varying means on several other keys issues that were determined based on input at a community kick-off meeting in June.
Using a golf theme, they “played” six holes on each of the issues.
They were asked about desired community facilities as well as dining and shopping options, things they like about others places they have visited that would be ideal in the village, and what big things will impact the village — both good and bad — in the future.
They placed green dots on facilities they want in the village, put play $20 bills in bags to vote for shopping and dining options they would like to see here, and used colored strings showing their desired mode of transportation — walking, biking, driving or public — to get from home to different destinations in the village.
Residents registered support for a number of community designations, with a public library, a theatre-performing arts center appearing and outdoor amphitheater getting the lion’s share of green dots, especially after the first session in the morning.
But following the evening session, which attracted a number of younger residents, some with their children, a community pool also got more votes. The other choices were a senior center and an outdoor sports facility. The county’s Senior Enrichment Center is a few miles north of the village.
The village looked into the possibility of building a performing arts center in 2012, but a consultant it hired recommended against, saying the time was not right. The firm noted there were already a number of other venues. It recommended that the village look into partnering with other groups to help grow the arts in Moore County.
As for a public library, the village and Given Memorial Library leaders have been holding discussions for several months on how best to proceed with a library expansion and whether the village should take operating it.
Residents were also asked what things they would like to see in their neighborhoods in terms of community space. Options included a community garden, neighborhood park, picnic shelter or gazebo and a playground. A dog park and play field also votes.
On the question of walking, cycling and golf cart facilities, residents registered support for separate bike and walking lanes on the sides of streets, more greenway trails, multi-modal paths, paved sidewalks, sand-clay paths and even dedicated golf cart paths.
Residents could vote for three items on each of the list boards.
At the end, they wrote words on a large piece of paper to sum up how the village should be described in the future. The dominant theme for the village to keep in mind for the future is to preserve its current charm. Others included “reasonable, controlled growth,” “limited growth,” “unique quality of life,” “well-planed community,” “a place for continuing growth,” and “not any town USA.” One person wrote it is important to “keep the old feeling but with up-to-date shopping and dining. Others used words such as “safe,” “walkable” and “comfortable.”
Another wrote that it is important to have an “infrastructure to support a healthy lifestyle.”
Among the big things that could impact the village negatively, some of the more common responses included increasing traffic, poor quality of new construction, continued population growth, urban sprawl, high-density development and the fact that many younger residents are not taking up golf, which has been a big draw for many retirees to come here, noting Pinehurst Resort’s importance to the village’s future.
Foundation of Plan
Consultants hired by the village will take all of the input from two sessions — one was held in the morning and another in the evening — to develop a set of guiding principles that will be the foundation of the comprehensive plan update.
Brian Wright, the founder of Town Planning and Urban Design Collaborative (TPUDC), said in the introduction for the first group of residents Wednesday morning that the consultants learned a lot from the kick-off meeting in June.
“The purpose of this workshop is to really start to clarify what your vision is for the future and start to hone in on important topics that we’ll discuss as we go though this long process,” he said.
Wright said the new comprehensive long-range plan will cover a broad range of issues identified by residents. Those include traffic and transportation, housing choices, land uses and growth, parks and recreation facilities, infrastructure, the actual design of building — “everything that’s encompassed in maintaining the village that is so unique and special.”