The author of this column is mayor of Pinehurst. This is in response to the Feb. 26 column by Bart Boudreaux, of the Pinehurst Matters steering committee.
There has been a constant trickle of misinformation about the Pinehurst Village Council and our approval of the Greens Apartments at the Arboretum.
Thus far, I have refrained from any public response to Bart Boudreaux and Pinehurst Matters, but the recent column suggests that the Village Council acted in an egregious and unethical manner. This is not true, and now is the time for a response.
First, let me address the timing of this development proposal and the fact that candidates did not discuss it during the election. Whatever state you may be from, the council follows policies and procedures established by the state of North Carolina.
Many applicants come to our Planning Department with “proposals.” They research the rules and want to get a “sense” of how elected leaders might feel. Meeting with council members “two by two” is not in any way illegal or unethical. In fact, it saves applicants time in expensive design of projects that “just don’t fit” with village goals.
No proposals are announced to the public until an application has been filed. In fact, over the years, several proposals were floated for this particular property. These remain confidential because no applications were ever filed.
Second, about the contribution by Kuester to my mayoral campaign: I never met Mr. Kuester until after the election, so I can only speculate about his reasons in supporting me. The next-strongest candidate, Mr. John Strickland, is decidedly anti-development, having voted against the Village Green/Tufts Park project, undoubtedly the most valuable improvement to our downtown in recent memory.
It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to decide whom to support. Since this is still America, we are all free to choose the candidate whose goals are more in line with ours. In fact, one of my platforms during the election was the redevelopment of Village Place, that unsightly area that includes the former blighted acreage that will soon be the Greens Apartments. The Homebuilder’s Association sent out a questionnaire to all candidates, and I assume they chose to support candidates based upon our responses.
Next, let’s look at the development process itself. The applicants followed all the rules, including a neighborhood meeting, two public hearings by the Planning Board and one by the Village Council. A Planning Board subcommittee dutifully crafted a number of conditions and the applicants agreed to all but one — the size of the smallest units.
The Pinehurst Development Ordinance provides a development option called conditional zoning, in which all aspects of a development are negotiable. Since this option was used, it is incorrect to say that any “variances” were granted. The opposition did not surface until the very end of the process — after conditions had been negotiated and the Planning Board made its recommendation to the council.
Regarding the May 24 public hearing: The applicant is always allowed to present first. Otherwise, what is the public commenting about? Some rumors read over the internet? To this day, I and others hear from people who say they misunderstood the location (thinking it was the Traditions site) and think the Greens is a vast improvement over the previous unsightly conditions.
The size of the one-bedroom units was the only condition the applicant and Planning Board failed to agree upon. Council was aware of this when we received the Planning Board recommendation. No council member disagreed with the size. And to my recollection, our manager checked again via email on the day of the meeting, just to be sure.
I take full responsibility for failing to make this clear during the meeting. However, the ordinance we passed clearly read “748 square feet.” How that is measured is dictated by our Development Ordinance.
Additionally, Mr. Campbell offered to recuse himself, but our attorney advised that it was not necessary for him to do so. If he had, the vote would still have been 4-0.
Finally, to all who love our village and want to preserve its charm and Norman Rockwell feel, have you spent any money in our shops and restaurants lately? Are you aware of the new offerings — a gallery, a baby store, a yoga studio, several new boutiques and a soon to open “Corner Store”?
If you truly love your village and wish to preserve it, I hope to see you shopping and dining downtown soon.