The Pinehurst Hot Mess: Getting Hotter


The lawyers have made their thoughts known on the vacation rentals ban.  The Open Meetings lawsuit against the village is already headed to The NC Court of Appeals.  Friendships have been ended.  Country club memberships AND cocktail party invitations are being threatened. Things are getting dire for Comrade Strickland and his politburo here in The People’s Republic of Pinehurst.

It was stunning to hear mayor pro tem (and veteran DC lobbyist) Patrick “Carmine” Pizzella talk so much about “compromise” at the council meeting earlier this week.  Could this have been the same guy seen mocking residents seeking compromise on the vacation rental ban?  The same guy who has repeatedly demanded folks “bring on the lawsuits”?

It was also laughable to hear Pizzella suggest that he and Strickland were all about keeping housing more affordable.  Their clique — the same group that propelled these two into office — howled like banshees over development of the Arboretum Apartments and the since-abandoned townhouse project on McCaskill Road. (Strickland enthusiastically participated in and encouraged all that.) 

Apparently, village staff and council members have been talking a lot privately about the vacation rental ban ordinance in recent weeks.  Anyone watching recent meetings can tell that.  What Pizzella terms as a “win win win win” situation for all parties looks not much different than earlier versions of the ordinance.

Basically, the Strickland-Pizzella gang is allowing all existing vacation rentals to be grandfathered in and declared “non-comforming uses.”  Any attempts to create new short-term rentals will be blocked from many neighborhoods in town.  A rezoning request can be filed, but applicants might not want to hold their collective breaths.

The non-conforming use status travels with the property, in case the property is sold.  If the original owner rents their home out for two months, and the buyer wants to do it for, say, nine months, village authorities will frown upon that.

Vacation rental owners will still have to register their properties and file all kinds of extra info with village authorities.

Pizzella seemed more smug than usual in declaring the threat of a lawsuit over this proposed ordinance “drastically reduced.”  He said ditching the amortization requirement — forcing owners to sell their properties — made the changes more legally kosher.  

All kinds of “special requirements” are being added to the vacation rental ordinances.  A lot of these requirements will be purposely left vague and open for, um, interpretation.

Village manager Jeff Sanborn admitted that there will not be much in the way of proactive enforcement of the new ordinance.  “As things come to our attention,” he said at the meeting this week.”We will be compelled to act.”

*Nice.*  Another avenue for busybodies to tattle on their neighbors.  Did I tell you the Village of Pinehurst maintains a message board / app for tattling on people? 

The ordinance declares that grandfather status can be removed from a property if it is not rented out during a period of 365 days.  The Strickland-Pizzella gang objected, suggesting that period was too long.   Staff reminded the council members that the 365 number protects permanent residents who often spend several months a year out of town, while renting their Pinehurst property.

Isabel Maddox, an attorney representing The Country Club of North Carolina, put a damper on some of the Strickland-Pizzella gang’s smugness. She pointed out that declaring a property non-conforming can negatively impact: (1) a property’s value, (2) the ability to finance the property, and (3) the rebuilding of property following a catastrophic event.

(CCNC is planning to build new vacation rentals within their secured, gated community.)

Maddox noted that the ordinance would hamstring owner efforts to “update” property. She also said the registration requirement will likely not pass muster with state courts.

Property owners will not be allowed to increase or decrease the footprint of their property.  There will be no adding or deleting of bedrooms.  The number of cars at each property will be limited to ONE per inhabitant.

In the Wilmington case,  the city got popped by the court over their registration requirement and permits, and had to refund ALL fees collected from property owners as part of those registrations and permits.

Some other issues to think about:

Your neighbor can be allowed to rent their home, but you would be blocked. How do you justify different treatment for homes that are basically the same, and located right next door to each other?

Micromanagement.  The ordinance will be declaring limits on how many people can sleep in bedrooms. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Vacation rentals will be facing so much more regulation on activities inside the structure than full-time year-round residents.