Plans for a hotel key to the Pinehurst Resort’s new role as an anchor site for the U.S. Open and other golfing championships have cleared the first phase of the village’s approval process.
After more than four hours of presentations, public hearings and discussion on Wednesday, Pinehurst’s Planning and Zoning board unanimously recommended the conditional rezoning of 2.7 acres off of Carolina Vista Drive to allow for construction of a 64,000-square-foot hotel.
The project with the working title “The Lodge at Pinehurst” will involve 34 rooms, including some suites, lobby, meeting spaces, locker room, fitness area and bar. It’s scheduled to be finished by the end of 2023, in time for the next U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2024.
The proposed hotel site adjacent to Pinehurst Country Club and the resort’s Cradle short course currently holds a pair of croquet lawns and is now under a split Recreation Development and Office Professional zoning.
Plans will now move forward to the Village Council for consideration with eight conditions recommended by the planning board. Those would allow for delayed installation of parking, larger signs, and for the building to exceed the 50 foot height limit in Pinehurst’s development ordinance by up to five feet.
Pinehurst’s Historic Properties Commission reviewed plans for the project in February and granted the requisite Certificate of Appropriateness.
The Lodge at Pinehurst entered the village’s review process a few months ahead of the project that has precipitated it. On Thursday the Historic Properties Commission granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to the U.S. Golf Association’s plans for a second headquarters at the corner of Carolina Vista and Cherokee Road.
“Golf House Pinehurst” will eventually be home to the USGA’s equipment research and testing center and turfgrass agronomy and management offices, as well as a museum and welcome center.
The USGA’s investment in Pinehurst also comes with a commitment to the resort’s course No. 2 as the first U.S. Open anchor site. Championships are scheduled there in 2024, 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047. The new hotel enters the equation as part of the resort’s efforts to elevate players’ experience of the U.S. Open.
“This project from the very beginning has been an integral part of our long-term planning. Our objective with our friends at the resort, and Mr. Dedman in particular, has been to not only have great championships here, whether they be U.S. Opens, Women’s Opens or Amateur championships, but to have the best championships here in Pinehurst and this facility will help pave the way for that,” said Craig Annis, chief brand officer for the USGA.
“What we would be able to provide for our corporate partners, hospitality and other experiences would frankly be unrivalled in the game of golf and certainly at major championships. We would be not only in support of this, but see it as a vital part of the USGA’s presence here, linked to bringing not only the championships that we’ve already committed to but many more long into the future.”
Plans situate all of the lodge’s guest rooms on the south side of the building overlooking The Cradle. Service, utilities, air-handling units and generators supporting the hotel’s function would be on the north side, screened from the existing parking lot with brick walls and landscaping.
When the resort isn’t hosting a major golfing event, the lodge will complement its three historic hotels — The Carolina Hotel, The Holly Inn and The Manor — as an up-to-date and luxurious lodging option.
“Segments of corporate and leisure travelers bypass Pinehurst for other resorts with more spacious, lavish and modern hotel rooms,” said Tom Pashley, president of Pinehurst Resort. “Our industry is as competitive as ever. New entrants constantly raise the bar with hotel and room design. We’ve made significant enhancements to our golf and dining amenities and we believe this lodge will allow us to continue attracting desirable visitors to our area.”
Conditions and flexibilities
Renderings of The Lodge at Pinehurst show varying gradations of roof height along the length of the building. The lobby and entrance on the hotel’s east end, closest to Pinehurst Country Club, will be the highest at 52 feet.
“As we were looking at the architecture, we definitely wanted to break up the rooflines,” said Manny Dominguez with the architecture firm Cooper Carry.
“When you have a site this long, what you don’t want to do is design one roof. You don’t want a monolithic building like you see anywhere on the highway. We really wanted to break it down to the scale of some of the historical structures here.”
Pinehurst’s development ordinances allow for a maximum roof height of 50 feet in the hotel district. Planning and zoning board members agreed to recommend a condition allowing the hotel to reach up to 55 feet.
Another condition would remove the required 30-foot rear yard setback entirely to allow the hotel to directly abut The Cradle. As planned, the lodge would be the first of Pinehurst Resort’s hotel properties to offer views of a golf course.
Wednesday’s public hearing drew comments from four village residents. During the hearing, former planning board member Leo Santowasso suggested that the planned emergency access road from N.C. 5 southwest of the site be adjusted to protect a pair of mature longleaf pines.
As proposed, the 20-foot driveway would pass between the trees in the 38 feet of available space. That suggestion led the board to add a condition that the resort work with village staff to preserve those two trees.
The resort also requested that they be allowed to add signs up to 50 percent larger than the standards established in the Pinehurst Development Ordinance.
“We don’t really have a sign plan at this point. We’d like to provide flexibility to utilize that additional space if necessary,” said land planner Bob Koontz. “There won't be a big flashing sign or anything on the building, but something that may be in the front on the wall, something scaled to fit the walls may be slightly larger than what would be permitted in the existing code.”
Planning board member Julia Latham said that when they’ve made similar exceptions for other resort properties, namely The Manor and Pinehurst Brewing Co., the planning board has made that decision with sign prototypes in front of them.
“The mock-up showed us what the size of the letters looked like in proportion to the building and we were able to make a decision based specifically on where that sign would be and what it would look like and whether it was in conformance with the area around,” she said. “Here, this feels a bit like carte blanche.”
After some discussion, planning board members agreed to recommend that condition, but only to apply to the sides of the building facing internally to the resort campus. So signs facing The Cradle or N.C. 5 will have to comply with the PDO standards.
The bulk of the discussion on Wednesday dealt with parking and how the Lodge and its amenities will fit into the overall Pinehurst Resort ecosystem, to include the new USGA headquarters.
“There’s a lot about a 34-room lodge, but suddenly it works out that there are 240 spaces for meeting,” resident John Webster said during the hearing.
“This is a conference center, this is not just a little lodge. So my request to you is that this hotel-cum-conference-center be reduced in size and required to keep in conformity with the (ordinance), that we have prior traffic analysis and parking plans as part of the approval process, that the impact of the USGA initiative be taken into account for parking, traffic, emergency services.”
Board members Jack Farrell, Sonja Rothstein and Jeramy Hooper were initially hesitant to make a decision on plans for the lodge in isolation from the USGA project, let alone the shortage of parking around the entire village. But the rest of the board voted to move ahead and they eventually voted to approve the parking allowances.
“I view them as two separate projects. Anything that happens in the village is going to impact something else in the village. It doesn’t matter where it is,” said board member David Alzamora.
“Even though these are happening on the same parcel, they’re close together, they are two separate projects. Personally I feel that for this presentation today I feel like plenty of questions have been answered. There are some questions that can’t be answered, unfortunately.”
Construction of the lodge itself will displace 12 spaces from the main country club parking area and as Farrell pointed out, the site of the planned USGA headquarters is currently used as parking for resort employees and shuttles.
“Just the front page of it shows that the buildings will be utilizing the entire northwest corner of this parcel. At the current time the northwest corner of this parcel has, at least by my count on Sunday, well over 120 cars and maybe 20 to 30 vans parked there,” he said.
“So these two are interrelated, and they’ve been interrelated since Day One and we’ve heard it again and again, have to be considered together. That’s why I’m a little reluctant to come to a final conclusion without seeing the detail on what’s going to be proposed for Phase Two.”
Eventually the planning board approved a package of four conditions requiring the resort to add up to 85 new parking spaces. That’s less than the 94 indicated in the PDO for the lodge.
Initially the board considered a request that the resort add only 73, based on a Kimley-Horn engineering study commissioned by the resort. But they reached 85 after adding back the 12 that will be lost during construction.
“Demand on the resort property is different throughout the day, but the PDO doesn’t contemplate that,” said Koontz.
“Right now based on the timing and where this is going the solution hasn’t been completely decided, and the reason for that is there are studies going on around the resort to determine what’s the best possible location for a future parking facility.”
During the presentation, resort representatives said that the lodge’s conference center and bar will be reserved solely for resort guests and won’t be open to the public in the way that some other resort amenities are. So they argue that parking spaces allocated for the rooms should be sufficient for the entire facility.
“The way the space is directed is we would need it to support the operation of the lodge,” said resort vice president Dick Higginbotham. “If we’re selling it off separate from the lodge, that could negatively impact lodge business. So the intent is that you need to be using the lodge in order to use the spaces that are there.”
Plans could include a new parking lot, parking deck, or remote parking to supply those 85 spaces. But other conditions that the planning board approved give the resort room to negotiate that number, too, based on “credit” for spaces associated with recreational amenities removed during the construction of the new buildings. For the purposes of those calculations, tennis courts west of Carolina Vista won’t count.
But those plans won’t come about until after the next U.S. Open. The planning board is recommending that the village and resort codify an agreement that parking plans come before the village no later than three months after the June 2024 golf championship.