Town leaders and planning staff from Aberdeen, Pinehurst and Southern Pines inched closer to developing a set of shared minimum standards that will be applied to all future investments along the area’s main roads.
Work began in earnest last December when all three jurisdictions signed a resolution that identified five mutual corridors of interest, including U.S. 15/501, U.S. 1, N.C. 5, Midland Road and Morganton Road. Bimonthly, a smaller working committee represented by each municipality’s planning staff have compared and discussed specific regulations for things like exterior lighting, maximum building height and setbacks.
The intent is to create a smooth transition between these communities.
“They’ve been going road by road, design factor by design factor,” Jenny Halsey, a local government consultant with Triangle J Council of Governments, reported to local leaders during a work session on Tuesday.
Aberdeen recently adopted a rewrite of the town’s ordinances with more stringent standards, particularly when it comes to new development. For the most part, Southern Pines and Pinehurst current standards are fairly complementary already.
“Our board is committed to doing the most we can,” said Aberdeen Town Manager Paul Sabiston. “At the end of the day, it won’t be as neat and cookie cutter as perhaps we hoped, but it will be one standard that we will get to as close as we can.”
But creating an identical aesthetic along their shared main roads was never the purpose for this project. Instead, the document that continues to be a work-in-progress will provide a baseline minimum. Each jurisdiction’s own policy documents may include higher standards as appropriate.
Initially work focused on developing shared standards for U.S. 15/501, which has impacts for each of the three neighboring municipalities. This provided a guideline to begin looking at the four other shared roads.
Southern Pines Assistant Town Manager Chris Kennedy said the working committee opted to pull Morganton Road off the list because the road is almost fully developed. The Pinehurst side is heavily residential and nearly all tracts on the Southern Pines side are dedicated to commercial use.
On the other hand, N.C. 5 is a complicated road with multiple uses that has proven challenging for these planners to develop shared standards that will encompass its entire length.
“You have golf courses and the railroad, residential and commercial businesses, and industrial areas,” Kennedy said. “And it’s not like it is a one-mile road. There are some significant road miles there.”
Midland Road has fewer uses, but the group agreed there are historical factors on this corridor that must be recognized.
“When you look at standards on N.C. 22, which is within an urban transition overlay, or Airport Road, which is also within an urban transition. But Midland is a unique area that seems like it has enough unique qualities to drive a different scrutiny,” Kennedy said.
He noted that Midland Road has been suggested as a potential Scenic Byway, through the state’s Department of Transportation program, and was also the subject of a comprehensive corridor study. Several recommendations from the study have already been implemented, including lowering the speed limit to 35 mph for its entire length, and the newly constructed roundabout intersection at Midland Road and N.C. 22/Central Drive.
Importantly, this project — and an uptick in development interest on rural tracts leading into Pinehurst, in particular — has driven a broader initiative to develop similar shared standard guidelines that could be applied consistently across Moore County.
Southern Pines Mayor-Elect Carol Haney said she appreciated the time that has been put in, and also the opportunity for each jurisdiction’s staff to work cooperatively.
“Most people don’t understand or realize all the work that goes into this,” Haney said. “They simply want their town to look nice and function well.”
The Aberdeen/Pinehurst/Southern Pines Tri Cities work group will next meet on Tuesday, Jan. 21, at a location to be announced.