While high-density development has been a hot topic in the campaigns for the Pinehurst Village Council, a rezoning for a 40-unit town home project has sailed through with no public opposition.

The council voted unanimously Tuesday evening to rezone 8.45 acres for the Royal Oaks development.

Also during the meeting, the council voted unanimously to create a capital project fund ordinance for a $4 million community center and to transfer $344,000 included in the budget this fiscal year to pay for design work into the fund.

The Planning and Zoning Board had unanimously recommended approval of the rezoning for the town home project after the developer, Rick Knight, revised his plans to improve the appearance, including the addition of shutters on the units that back up to Murdocksville Road. He also agreed to plant a small tree in each front yard.

Under one of the conditions of approval, which Knight agreed to, he provided a list of materials that will be used in the buildings and a color pallet to the village. He brought a display to show the council samples of the materials that will be used.

Knight thanked the staff and the Planning and Zoning Board for working with him to come with an acceptable plan.

“It has been a pleasure to work with everybody to get a good product and what would be best for everybody,” he said.

Mayor Nancy Fiorillo said that prior to the public hearing she was “a little hesitant” about voting on the rezoning on the same evening ff the hearing, but that after seeing Knight’s renderings and plans, she felt the council could go ahead and vote rather than waiting until the next meeting, which is common practice on some larger or more controversial projects.

Other council members agreed.

Planning Director Steve Wensman said the development will have 56 percent open space, which far exceeds the 25 percent required by the village. He said the development will have landscaped buffers that meet the village’s requirements.

The units will have 2,032 square feet of heated space, exceeding the minimum 1,500 square feet required by the village, he said.

The current high-density residential zoning on the property would allow about 4.35 units per acre. Under Knight’s proposed plans, there will be 4.73 units per acre, Wensman said.

He said the density is similar to surrounding land uses in that area.

The land on the east side of the road where a number of new single-family homes have been built comes out to about 4.4 units per acre. The zoning there requires a minimum 8,000-square-foot lots, which could allow a maximum density of 5.4 units per acre.

“The density is very similar to what’s across the road although a very different housing product,” Wensman said.

He pointed out that a 57-unit senior apartment complex under construction on the same side of Murdocksville Road as the town home development has a density of 11.8 units per acre.

Wensman said the planning staff also recommended approval of the rezoning.

“Based on the surrounding zoning and built environment, the proposed uses would be consistent with the existing adjacent uses and zoning,” he wrote in the staff report.

While the planning board expressed concerns about the development having only one driveway on Murdocksville Road, Wensman said the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) would approve only one access. He said DOT also determined that no additional improvements would be needed to the road based on the expected amount traffic from the project.

Knight said he would have preferred to have two driveways.

Wensman said the roads in the development will remain private. He said the developer will also extend a sidewalk along its property on Murdocksville Road that will eventually connect to one the developer of the senior apartment complex will install.

The developer has also agreed to be annexed into the village as a part of the rezoning. The senior apartments will also be annexed once the project is completed.

No one spoke against the project during a public hearing before the council voted.

On the community center, which has also been an issue in the council election campaigns, Financial Services Director John Frye said adopting the multi-year capital project ordinance will allow the village to accumulate funds for the center and account for the costs over several years. Plans call for construction to begin in fiscal year 2019 and for it to open in 2020.

The council voted unanimously at its Sept. 26 meeting to move forward with building the center at Cannon Park on Rattlesnake Trail near N.C. 211

The proposed 18,000-square-foot center would include a gymnasium, four multiple activity rooms of varying sizes and office space for the parks and recreation department.

The village has set aside $3.1 million from its surpluses and would have to borrow about $1 million, which could be done without a property tax increase.

Council member John Bouldry said he agreed that the village should create the project ordinance and earmark funds so the public can see what is spent.

“This is exactly what we need to do,” he said. “We are doing it openly so the residents will know how we are going to accomplish a goal we made … to build the community center.”

Also during the meeting, Village Manager Jeff Sanborn told the council in his quarterly transportation report that DOT officials and their consulting engineers are continuing to analyze different options for improvements to the Traffic Circle. He said that instead of using 2025 traffic models, they have pushed it out to 2040, which will likely impact some of the proposed designs under consideration because of increased volumes.

“Once they settle on a recommendation they are firmly committed to, they would like to come and make a presentation to the council at a work session,” Sanborn said.

He said DOT would then hold some type of public forum to seek public inout and possibly hold a follow-up meeting with the council that could include a public hearing on the design option before asking the council to endorse it.

Sanborn said that would likely occur in the next two or three months.

High volume, mobility and safety needs at the circle scored high enough to be included in the latest State Transportation Improvement Plan. An estimated 19,000 to 20,000 vehicles per day traverse the circle.

The plan includes $6 million for improvements to the circle and its five approaches, as well U.S. 15-501 from Voit Gilmore Lane at Pinecrest High School in Southern Pines to Page Road in Pinehurst. A local committee was formed to review 10 wide-ranging alternatives, costing between $7 and $10 million.

Sanborn also reported that during the same meeting with DOT representatives in late August, village officials also asked about possible improvements to N.C. 5 to accommodate increasing traffic volumes. The village had asked DOT to look into a small roundabout at the intersections with McCaskill and McKenzie Roads. Barrett Road also comes out at McCaskill on the east side of N.C. 5, creating a hazardous intersection.

He said DOT is “still open to that,” but will likely hold off doing anything at this point now that the entire stretch of N.C. 5 from the village’s southern limits to N.C. 211 has been added to the list in a draft of a county comprehensive transportation plan.

“As a result of that, they do not want to piecemeal this … and instead want to focus on the corridor as a whole,” he said. “I think maybe the longterm effect is that we may not get an immediate improvement done as early as we would otherwise like, but we might get a better overall solution that is designed head to tail for that corridor.”

Sanborn said the plan will be presented to the various towns and the county, probably by the holidays or soon after. He said the council will be asked to approve parts of the plan within the village’s jurisdiction.

Most recently, DOT held a public input session last Monday night on proposed improvements to Midland Road.

Fiorillo said the “biggest takeaway” for her is the possibility that the speed limit could be lowered from the current 45-mph to 35-mph, which she has along advocated.

“I though that was very good,” she said.

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