Moore 100 held a panel discussion on development and growth trends in Moore County on March 16 at Pine Needles Resort’s Knollwood Lodge in Southern Pines.
The panel’s four speakers were Moore County Planning and Inspections Director Debra Ensminger, Southern Pines Planning Director BJ Grieve, Aberdeen Planning Director Justin Westbrook, and the Village of Pinehurst Planning Director Darryn Burich.
The panelists have 84 years of combined municipal planning experience.
Moore 100 Executive Director Natalie Hawkins prompted the panelists on development concerns and maintaining Moore County’s quality of life.
Ensminger told the audience of business leaders and elected officials, amounting to approximately 75, that land zoned for development was sparse, and infrastructure was a major concern.
Ensminger said she had major recommendations for updating the county’s comprehensive development plan, including having major subdivision developers provide their own sewer and water.
“Septic tanks are not sustainable,” Ensminger said.
The county directs development toward cities, but some developers want to develop in the county, and that is not an option, according to Ensminger.
Grieve said in Southern Pines, there has been a shift away from single-family detached housing because of the price of land. There are six development projects in the paperwork pipeline waiting for approval, adding 1,700 residential units as townhomes and apartments, which means fewer opportunities for homeownership.
Concerning development along U.S. Highway 15-501 and Morganton, Grieve said there was a lot of development interest, but also a lot of residents pushing back.
“The town council is working with West Southern Pines residents,” Grieve said about gentrification claims.
Westbrook said Aberdeen was blessed with industry and commercial development revitalizing existing buildings.
“Aberdeen is strong on single-family housing,” Westbrook said about the town being open for up to 2,000 new detached single-family housing units. There are 10 to 20 acres along U.S. Highway 15-501 toward Laurinburg.
The Village of Pinehurst has an increase in demand for detached single housing, according to Burich, but they are running out of land that is properly zoned.
Concerning public investment in infrastructure, Burich said the major concern was having economic incentives for developing things like extending roads.
Westbrook said communication and cooperation were paramount, so developers know what Aberdeen expects to meet infrastructure needs.
“Most people don’t move somewhere because they have great sewer pipes,” Grieve said about Southern Pines. “They want a cute little town, cultural centers, and art.”
Westbrook said each town marches to its own beat because residents want different types of growth.
“It’s not us versus them,” Westbrook said.
The planning directors said they meet formally and informally to collaborate.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” Moore County Partners in Progress Chair John May said about Moore 100. “Doing an even better job as we move forward.”
May was one of the founders of Moore County Partners in Progress and works with Moore 100, the networking group of business leaders open by invitation to business leaders.
A reception was held after the panel discussion.
Pinehurst Realty Group hosted Time & Place Cafe Catering in Southern Pines.
Feature photo: Moore 100’s speakers, Moore County Planning and Inspections Director Debra Ensminger (left), Southern Pines Planning Director BJ Grieve, Aberdeen Planning Director Justin Westbrook, and Village of Pinehurst Planning Director Darryn Burich answer questions from Moore 100 Executive Director Natalie Hawkins on Moore County development at the March 16, 2022, meeting at Pine Needles Resort’s Knollwood Lodge in Southern Pines.
~Article and photo by Sandhills Sentinel Journalist Stephanie M. Sellers. Contact her at [email protected].