Pinehurst 2011: The Village Green


Plans to update or revamp the village’s historic downtown area have been a hot topic for the last couple of years.  Controversies have grown from village government’s consideration of the NewCore development strategy, the proposed Village Chapel expansion, and plans for revamping The Village Green.

On her campaign web site, mayoral candidate Nancy Fiorillo stakes out her position on the core village:

The Village Center has been the heart and soul of our Village since its inception in 1895.Many changes have occurred over these past one hundred eleven years. Our Post Office will likely be consolidated with the office on NC5 and residents and businesses will receive mail delivered to their doors. The Post Office building will be entirely within the Village’s control as far as use and rehabilitation are concerned. As the economy continues to improve, I expect a buyer will emerge and add this historic building to our retail/restaurant/service mix. Enhancements to the Village Green which should not in any way affect our Historic Landmark status, will ensure that the Village is a vibrant community, meeting the needs of all residents.

In a 2010 council meeting, Fiorillo and her fellow council member and mayoral candidate Joan Thurman seemed to be in agreement:

Pinehurst’s historic district has been on a watch list since 2004 because of the installation of the Carolina Vista roundabout and demolition of the original Pinehurst laundry building and the smoke stack attached to the steam plant.

The village maintains none of those issues were the fault of the Village Council.

While council members have voiced support for the historic landmark status, they also have chafed under the restrictions it has.

“You have to be very careful about tinkering with your crown jewel,” Councilman Doug Lapins said. “But on the other hand, we don’t live in a museum.”

The village is growing, and the Village Council is responsible for overseeing development, not the Park Service’s Atlanta regional office, Thurman said.

“They need to understand that we are a viable community,” Fiorillo said.

Thurman also spoke up during the debate over the proposed Village Chapel expansion:

The Village Council is hoping that the National Park Service won’t disapprove of an expansion of the Village Chapel and that the project won’t jeopardize Pinehurst’s National Historic Landmark status.

The National Park Service has said proposed changes to the landmark district should pass through its office first. But the council didn’t wait for approval from the agency before approving a permit for a 16,800-square-foot classroom building for the chapel.

Pinehurst officials sent plans for the project to federal officials for review after Mayor Virginia Fallon received a sharply worded letter from the Park Service in September warning the village that the project “threatened to destroy the integrity of the Village Green.”

The project has passed the planning and zoning board, the Village Council and the Historic Preservation Commission. At this point, the village doesn’t have the authority to keep the project from moving forward, Village Attorney Mike Newman said.

The only approval that remains before the church can start construction is a site plan and technical review by staff members.

“None of us felt like we needed to get an OK or a clearance from the Park Service before we could proceed,” Councilwoman Joan Thurman said.

Fiorillo and her fellow councilmember Ginsey Fallon, also on the 2011 ballot, commented on the core village’s historic status at a meeting earlier this year:

A proposed concept design plan for the Village Green will be a “catalyst for the reinvention of Pinehurst’s town center,” according to its designers.

The plan includes the expansion of the Given Memorial Library and Tufts Archives, a relocation and slight expansion of the sand parking lot, the inclusion of open space and the improvement of traffic flow near the Village Green.

It was presented to the council during its work session Tuesday morning. The council took no action.

The changes, the plan’s proponents say, will help reinvent the village core without losing sight of past history.

The plan was well-received by the council, but there was one overriding question.

“Would these improvements be worth giving up National Historic Landmark status?” council member Nancy Fiorillo asked.

The village has had continuing talks with representatives from the National Park Service about how some recent projects, such as the Carolina Visita roundabout and the proposed expansion of The Village Chapel, could cost the village its landmark status.

Mayor Ginsey Fallon said she believed he possibility of losing the status was a chance worth taking.

Mayoral candidate John Marcum has been sharply critical of the village’s plans for the core village:

What remains to be seen is how the National Park Service, which has warned that the alterations could jeopardize the village’s National Historic Landmark status, will receive the proposal.

Backers of the plan, which was designed on a pro-bono basis by several local architects, said they viewed the enhancements as essential to the long-term viability of the village center.

“The resort is not going to take us where we want to go in the future,” said Pat Corso, who served as CEO of Pinehurst Resort for 17 years. “We don’t have oceans or mountains or any of those things to redeem us. We just have golf. And we need something else to bring people to the village.”

But John Marcum, a Pinehurst resident, said the current configuration of the Village Green and the National Landmark designation helped lead to major growth over the past 20 years and brought people with high incomes into the village.

“Why would you want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg?” he asked the council.

That remark led Councilman Doug Lapins to repeat Corso’s theme.

“I think that goose is dead. Golf alone is not going to be enough for the village in the future,” he said.

Marcum addresses his concerns about the core village on his campaign web site:

  • We need to capitalize on Pinehurst’s attractiveness to visitors and those who look to relocate and preserve its special charm and beauty. Newcomers must be welcomed and offered expanded recreational facilities to complement our status as a National Historic Landmark and the U.S. Home of Golf.
  • Integrity, honesty and transparency are attributes I will insist on from all members and departments in the Village  administration. Developers will be required to demonstrate their financial ability to complete projects and agree to specified milestones before permits are issued. Neighborhood properties will not be rezoned to higher density.
  • I will stop frivolous spending like $500,000 outlays to pave the Village Green parking lot, or costly consulting contracts. We need to use new tax revenues from resources like the Pinewild annexation to address critical needs, build reserves and reduce our property tax burden.
  • I believe in the actuarial disciplines I learned in business and government and will keep my eye on the future impact of what we do today. Towns and states all over America are facing financial ruin because they did not account for the impact that past pension and health care obligations would have on their current budgets.