To understand why Aberdeen, Pinehurst and Southern Pines residents will likely all face higher taxes this coming year, consider the following news items just in the last week:
Item: A proposed planned unit development with up to 120,000 square feet of retail and office space and 370 homes was submitted to the town of Aberdeen.The 119-acre tract abuts Pinehurst’s village limits on N.C. 5.
Item: An undeveloped 31-acre tract on U.S. 15-501, near the boundary line that separates Southern Pines from Pinehurst, could be the site of a new 288-unit high-end apartment complex. Draft plans call for 12 three-story buildings, with work beginning in 2020.
Item: Pinehurst is proposing the tax rate be increased by a half cent annually for the next five years, capping out at 32 cents in fiscal year 2024. The increase is needed to keep pace with employee retirement costs, rising solid waste disposal costs and inflation.
We don’t have to ask what all these things have in common because we’re sure you already know: growth. The success of southern Moore County’s economy is manifesting itself in ways that can no longer be accommodated by simple tweaks and “holding the line” on costs.
‘So Much Activity’
What’s especially startling is that these towns — and they surely will not be alone when all is said and done — will all see additional revenue as a result of the recent property revaluation.
Gary Briggs, Moore County’s tax administrator, had predicted that properties would increase about 4-6 percent in value since 2015. Instead, they’re coming in around 8 percent, on average.
“Look at all the new homes being built,” he said. “There is so much activity taking place.”
In some cases, like Southern Pines, property owners are seeing significant increases in value. How can that be when that same 1980s-era wallpaper is in the dining room and you haven’t renovated the kitchen in years? Homes are being built and sold like crazy, that’s why.
The superheated real estate market is pronounced in Southern Pines, turning on its head the notion that Pinehurst living is the most expensive. But don’t be fooled: the construction of new homes stretches everywhere.
Southern Pines is building a new fire station. Aberdeen is building a new police station. Pinehurst is looking at a third fire station, a possible new library and will open its new community center later this year. Even Whispering Pines, once a sleepy retirement community, is borrowing millions to upgrade one of its lakes and renovate its fire station.
Expect to Pay More
Our towns simply can’t hold the line and make do with the same number of employees, the same number of patrol cars. New water lines are going in. New homes means more garbage to collect, and that means new trash trucks. The number of new subdivisions means more plans to inspect and review.
We have long advocated in this space for our municipalities to approach growth in a thoughtful, coordinated way rather than letting the market dictate the terms.
Aberdeen, Pinehurst and Southern Pines have recently undertaken a brilliant strategy of coordinating development and sharing information when a project is within a quarter mile of another’s boundary. Such is the case with the large proposed development on N.C. 5. While technically in Aberdeen, it can’t help but impact Pinehurst, so the village must account for that growth. Same with the new apartments off U.S. 15-501, which lie in Southern Pines but would rest near Pinehurst.
We all appreciate a healthy economy and vibrant community. But left unchecked, there is no avoiding that it will change our Eden in the Pines. And that change will start with our tax bill. And if new growth does not share in that financial burden, expect to see more of the same.