The Town of Southern Pines held a public hearing at its regular meeting on Aug. 10, and several residents spoke about the Moore County Board of Education’s offer to sell the former Southern Pines Primary School.

Mayor Carol Haney began public comments by saying “the elephant in the room” was the decision by the school board to sell only a portion of the Southern Pines Primary School property to Southern Pines Land and Housing Trust. The land and housing trust’s goal is to provide educational and entrepreneurial opportunities at the site.

Speakers said they were upset about the school board’s offer to sell five acres instead of the total 17 acres and said the Town of Southern Pines did not support them.

The first speaker was told by Haney that it was not acceptable to call out council members by name and say ugly things.

The second speaker said some things were illegal in the handling of the old school sale and said racism was a factor in the offer of partial acres instead of 17 acres.

One resident said Republicans were to blame for the offer of less land.

Others said the offer of a portion of the property, combined with rising property taxes, was gentrification.

Click here for meeting audio. Listen at 22-minute mark for public speakers.

The offer occurred the previous day when the school board acted on a proposed resolution based on state law. State law dictates that surplus school property be sold in open bid except in exceptional circumstances such as the historical Southern Pines Primary School’s parcel 1A.

The historical section, parcel 1A, includes five acres, the old school, auditorium, the building intended for an African American museum, parking, and offsets for proper zoning.

The offer was to sell the Southern Pines Land and Housing Trust parcel 1A.

Southern Pines Land and Housing Trust has seven days to accept the offer and 30 days to close. If they do not accept the offer, parcel 1A will be open for an upset bid.

During the consent agenda of the meeting, the council elected council member Mike Saulnier as treasurer after the announcement of treasurer Mitch Lancaster’s retirement from the position. Lancaster has moved to Pinehurst. Due to protocol, he cannot serve in Southern Pines.

In a phone call to Sandhills Sentinel, Lancaster said a hallmark in his tenure on the council was his participation in the transformational purchase of the Whitehall property, which was a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

“Barbara Sherman could have developed the property and sell it for three million. But she is a land conservationist and sold it to the town for half that,” Lancaster said.

Whitehall has a home, large barn, pond with an island and open fields covering 157 acres adjoining the town-owned Reservoir Park of 165 acres.

“The house could be used for staff, council retreats or event venues,” Lancaster said about the unanimous purchase being used as an inclusive purchase for the town and beyond.

Click here for meeting audio of Mitch Lancaster. Listen at 13:50-minute mark.

During the Town of Southern Pines meeting on Tuesday, the public hearing for Dan Pritchard’s preliminary development plan on his proposed 290 overseas shipping container self-storage was delayed until the town’s Oct. 12 regular meeting. The delay will give Koontz Jones Design time to address the planning board’s questions.

Koontz Jones Design shares image of parcel intended for a storage facility along Hwy. 22/Image provided by town.

In other matters, the council approved the Architectural Compliance Permit for the construction of a 4,668 square foot office building at 540 SW Broad Street. The property owners are Colin and Emi Webster. The owners operate ASCOT Land Development and Construction.

The Ascot Corporation provided architectural rendering of their ASCOT building for 540 SW Broad Street.

Southern Pines Town Council will next meet on Aug. 23 for a work session.

Feature photo: Town of Southern Pines council members, Reagan Parson (left), Mike Saulnier, Bill Pate, Mayor Carol Haney and Paul Murphy say farewell to Mitch Lancaster August 10 at their regular board meeting.

~Article audio recording by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Stephanie M. Sellers. Contact her at [email protected].

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