For years, standard operating procedure at village hall has been to shove decisions down the throats of village residents. If anyone objected, it was time to call the lawyer and go to court.
Village attorney Mike Newman has GOT to be the busiest municipal attorney in the state.
Mayor Nancy Fiorillo, and the rest of the Village Action Team slate that got elected, promised MORE talking and negotiating and LESS lawyering up. It appears THAT kind of sentiment has gone right out the window.
We’ve got news today that the village council is rezoning The Traditions site on MacKenzie Road. The proposed multi-tenant project in the midst of Old Town’s high-dollar homes — approved by the last council — riled up quite a few Old Town residents during the 2011 campaign. Roads were installed on the property and an aggressive marketing campaign began.
Thanks to the economic nightmare of the last few years, The Traditions project never got off the ground. The developer declared bankruptcy, and the property got foreclosed on. Now, here comes the council — reacting to a loud but small group of residents — to rezone the property to a more restricted use.
The group that purchased the foreclosed property is expressing concern about the new restrictive zoning. I tend to agree with the sentiments of councilman Mark Parson, foreseeing the challenges in getting the property developed under the new restricted zoning:
In April, the property was purchased by Hudson Realty Capital LLC, after it was foreclosed on by Crescent State Bank.
At the time of the transaction, Village Attorney Mike Newman said representatives from Hudson said they were still evaluating the property to determine what to do with it.
Eli Zablud, a Cary developer, said in late June that he has an option to buy the property and is considering developing the site. He has asked the council twice not to reduce the density on the property, saying it will make it difficult to develop.
His most recent appeal came Tuesday.
Council member Mark Parson said he favored seeing a design plan prior to adjusting the zoning.
“I don’t know why you wouldn’t remain open to what could be there,” he said. It’s not like we don’t have final say, so let’s see what he could come up with.”
Council member Mark Parson cast the sole vote this past Tuesday against the change. With the new changes to the zoning district, Parson, who is an architect and a proponent of design over density, said he is concerned that the changes will hamper development, if not prevent it.
“I think we are looking at having a go-cart track in Pinehurst for a very long time,” Parson said.
So, we are piling on because the developer of this property went bankrupt? Why not wait to see what people have planned, then rule on the project? How does the council justify an objection to multi-tenant housing on that property, when they have approved zoning — and subsidies — for A BAR (Railhouse Brewery) literally right across the street?
(I foresee legal counsel being retained in this matter.)
Earlier, we learned that the village will also be going to court to appeal a decision by the Historic Commission turning down the village-sanctioned renovation of The Village Green:
The Pinehurst Village Council, saying it likes the original improvement plan for the Village Green, will appeal last month’s rejection of that proposal by the village’s Historic Preservation Commission.
The council voted 4-1 Tuesday afternoon to direct Village Attorney Mike Newman to file this week an appeal of the June 29 decision. The commission on that day voted 4-2 not to issue a Certificate of Appropriateness for the proposed enhancements.
The appeal will be made to the Board of Adjustment.
The council also asked that the appeal be heard as soon as possible.
It is anticipated that the appeal will be heard no sooner than Sept. 6, though the exact date and time is yet to be determined, said Village Manager Andy Wilkison.
The village had until the end of the week to file the appeal.
The Board of Adjustment may affirm, overturn, or send the project back to the Historic Preservation Commission.
If that board’s ruling is appealed, the issue will go before Moore County Superior Court.
“It’s complicated,” said Village Manager Andy Wilkison, “But it is the system we have.”
The council briefly discussed the issue during its morning work session.
“It is no secret that I favor appeal, but we need to look at all our options and the ramifications of an appeal,” said Mayor Nancy Fiorillo.
After the decision, Fiorillo and other council members declined comment on the matter, referring questions to the village manager.
No comment? Where is the leadership here? We elected Fiorillo and her fellow council members! We did not give Andy Wilkison his current eight year contract. We didn’t hire him. Read On:
Earlier this month, the council revised the original plan, giving the village an opportunity to resubmit a new plan to the Historic Preservation Commission, if it opted not to appeal. The other option the village had was to accept the decision and drop the proposed improvements altogether.
Following its ruling on June 29, the commission called the plan “incongruous” with the Historic District, citing concerns with the number of trees to be removed in the plan and the encroachment of the parking lot into the village green.
Council member John Strickland maintained his support for the revised plan, saying it is more flexible moving forward.
“If we do such a large project, it may take away some of our options in the future,” he said.
He defended the Historic Preservation Commission and its work and urged the council to use “caution and compromise” as it moves forward.
You don’t see this rush to the lawyer’s office in Southern Pines and Aberdeen or Vass or Robbins. In those places, they tend to talk to people, and work with them to get things done.
No one has really made a good case for re-doing the village green. Why not do something practical that will benefit many different portions of the village? How about adding sidewalks to high-traffic venues such as Monticello Road? On Monticello, you have a lot of traffic zooming up and down that road every day. The houses are close to the road. You are playing with your life to try to walk, jog or just check your mail on that road. Sidewalks and / or bike lanes could help there.
Downtown Pinehurst is NEVER going to be Broad Street. Broad Street is much more accessible to outside traffic. To get into downtown Pinehurst, you have to wind your way through residential neighborhoods. Adding plants, cutting trees, and paving some parking lots is not going to improve the economic climate there.
The smart thing to do — to help downtown — is for the merchants and property owners to target customers of the Pinehurst resort and the Pinecrest Inn. Those folks are RIGHT THERE, and don’t have to get in the car and navigate the winding roads of Old Town.
This tendency to pull the rug out from under people, shove policy down people’s throats, and lawyer up at the drop of a hat is not going to do much to improve the local economy or the image of the village of Pinehurst. It’s going to make people be very wary of doing business where you HAVE to deal with Village Hall.