TEASER Pinehurst, Village Hall

(File Photo/The Pilot)

With development pressure increasing in two key areas of Pinehurst, village officials want to push forward with plans tailored specifically to them.

The village’s new comprehensive long-range plan calls for creating what are called small-area plans for the Village Place/Rattlesnake Trail corridor, and the N.C. 5 commercial area on the southern border. The plans bring the force of zoning to ensure any development is compatible with what residents want to see there.

In addition, another priority calls for revising the Pinehurst Development Ordinance (PDO) to be able to implement some of things called for in new long-range plan, such as the use of what is termed “form-based zoning.” Such zoning focuses more on the physical form, such as design, rather than segregating uses as traditional zoning does. The goal is to achieve more high-quality development.

Village staff have proposed moving forward in the coming fiscal year with the two small-area plans, which will likely present the first opportunity to try out the new form-based zoning concept, Planning Director Darryn Burich told the Village Council during its meeting last week.

“There are a lot of pressures in both of these areas,” Burich said.

But some council members are apprehensive about putting the small-area plans ahead of revising the overall development ordinance. Burich and Village Manager Jeff Sanborn said the two would all go together.

“Right now we don’t have a good set of PDO regulations or guidelines that allow us to implement the vision laid out in our minds or in some of the documents out there,” Burich said of those two key areas. “So what is happening is, we are going to be presented with development plans, and our PDO is not in sync with some of the ideas.”

Burich said one of the reasons he is pushing for the development of the small-area plans first is that some of the recommendations will likely include implementing form-based zoning. He added that the small-area plans would be based on what the public wants to see in those areas.

“You really have to have a vision for what you want in that area to develop the actual guidelines,” he said.

Councilwoman Lydia Boesch said she sees the benefit of proceeding down that road but that there are other priorities as well, based on the public input during the comprehensive planning process. She agreed that the PDO update could wait a bit longer, given the load on the planning staff.

“I think we all agree N.C. 5 and Village Place are really, really important,” she said. “The stormwater master plan is really important. … There are a lot of moving parts right now. I know that the planning department is stacked right now. We can’t reasonably update the PDO in the first year.”

Boesch said she was fine with delaying the revisions a couple of years “because of all these moving parts … are going to shed light on what needs to go into the PDO.”

But Councilwoman Judy Davis was among those expressing reservations.

“I am in search of a visual … of how it all fits together, that shows how we tackle all of this,” she said.

Councilman Kevin Drum agreed, saying he needed something that “helps us understand the mosaic of it all.”

Sanborn said this is basically a “chicken and egg thing” in terms of what is done first. He said the staff simply needed some guidance on what to address as a priority, and then “we figure out if it is all feasible to do.”

Davis said the “wild card” in all of this is the concept of form-based zoning and pattern books. Many residents expressed misgivings about that during the comprehensive planning process.

“It is surprising to me that you would wait until finishing the small-area plans to inform us on that,” she said. “That alarms me.”

She said it will take about 18 months to develop the two small-area plans.

“In the interim, what can be done to help us corral that, refine it, so we can understand and want to love it and embrace it?” Davis said.

Sanborn said form-based zoning is “a lot easier” to implement for commercial development, since state law allows local governments to regulate its design and appearance. That is not the case under existing law for residential development unless it is in a historic district.

“If you have a desire to use an approach like that in a residential setting, we’re going to have greater challenges,” Sanborn said. “It kind of makes sense to focus on these two areas. Having gone through that process, we’re going to understand a lot more about what the art of the possible is with regard to form-based zoning, and whether or not we have the ability to extend these approaches to future residential development.”

He added that this would address something “we hear quite often from the community and ourselves, that it sure would be nice not to be at the mercy of developers. This is an example of how you don’t put yourself at the mercy of developers and find what ‘right’ looks like.”

Councilwoman Jane Hogeman said that could also be done “with stringent PDO standards.”

“You can write it with standards,” she said, adding that the village could do the same thing through the zoning map, “rather than try to plan out every square inch.”

“We can then be working on revisions to the PDO and at the same time save ourselves a couple of nickels.”

Drum countered, “I don’t think you provide vision that way. You provide code and words.”

Hogeman said it is possible to have that “kind of vision written in the code.”

Earlier in the meeting, both she and Mayor John Strickland also expressed concerns about hiring another consultant to develop a plan for the Village Place area, noting that two previous plans have already been done, including one that’s almost 20 years old.

The concept of designing Village Place is to transform what used to be known as the old service district into something that would be an extension of Pinehurst’s historic core, as well as connect it with the Arboretum, Rassie Wicker Park and nearby neighborhoods.

A previous council all but abandoned that approach in 2016. Since then, the Greens at Arboretum apartments have sprung up, and Pinehurst Resort transformed the old steam plant into a brew pub and renovated the nearby Manor Inn.

That could lead to additional development in that area.

Performance Management Director Lauren Craig said that based on what was discussed at the work session, the council wanted to see if it was possible to have the small-area plans done sooner.

“We felt like it has probably risen in urgency,” she said, adding that it could be possible to have both plans done simultaneously by the same consultant, which would save money.

Drum noted that having the public input sessions for both areas at the same time would also be “win” for the residents.

The council ultimately gave the go-ahead for the staff to develop proposals on seeking consultants to develop the two plans and bring it back to the council for approval in June. Burich and Craig proposed having one consultant do both plans, which could save money.

Strickland said he was “pretty apprehensive” about a consultant being able to complete two plans in a year to 18 months.

“It is doable,” Burich said, adding that it would depend on the scope and scale of what the village wants.

Strickland said he was concerned about hiring another outside consultant, noting the two previous studies and several others that have come before the councils in the past 15 years. He questioned whether some of this could be done in-house.

“It seems to me that this is an area where we have some information and expertise already prepared over the years,” he said. “I’m concerned about spending additional funds that we may not need to spend and finding a way to take advantage of some of the resources we have here in the village.”

He agreed that an outside consultant could be needed on the N.C. 5 study because the traffic issue alone “is a different animal, and something that needs attention by someone with expertise.”

He and Hogeman said the village could put together a group to review the previous Village Place plans and help develop an updated one for the area.

“This is not something that we are too feeble to be able to handle ourselves,” Hogeman said.

But Burich countered that the planning staff does not have the “capability and the expertise” to do the kind of study that is needed.

“It is a regulating plan for this area,” he said, adding that it would be used to create special zoning districts. “It sounds easy on the surface if all you are doing is changing the zoning map. But if you want to implement the community’s vision for that area, if it is that special, we have to do a special area plan.”

Strickland said later in the discussion that he would want to see how the scope of the work of a consultant is defined, and how it takes into account previous studies to avoid duplication and hold down costs before he would vote to approve anything.

Davis said she was “fine” with giving the go-head for staff to proceed, but that she wants “to see how it all fits together.”

Davis added, “This is a plan to get a plan.”

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

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