A full house watched Monday as the Southern Pines Town Council approved at its work session a conditional use permit for a 2-acre site located at 660 SW Service Road. The site faces Highway U.S. 1, but the property is also adjacent to a quiet residential development.
The mixed-use development is calling for 32 town houses and two office units on five parcels. The plan is for six buildings, which will be spread out to blend into the existing neighborhood. The proposed dwellings are buy-in properties with sound transitional buffers with greenery.
Attorney Nicolas Robinson with Bradshaw Robinson Slawter, LLP, in Pittsboro, addressed the council on behalf of Paramounte Engineering and builder Marcel Goneau, objecting to some of the information presented at a held public hearing last week where 11 residents voiced complaints.
According to Robinson, North Carolina statutes do not allow the presentation of lay opinions as evidence. Resident Nora Bowman, who opposes the development, asserted that North Carolina law does allow for lay testimony.
Southern Pines resident Nora Bowman.
Opponents of the measure believe the development will conflict with the character and style of the neighborhood, and increased traffic density will make the area less safe. The development could also increase property taxes, which is also a concern.
Asked after the meeting why increased property values are a detriment, Bowman responded that many residents of the area live on fixed incomes. Increasing property taxes could force them into a situation where they must choose between taxes or food.
Southern Pines Mayor Carol Haney conceded that this was a difficult decision and that whatever decision was made must be legal and ethical. She also stated that the council had not discussed the matter since last week’s public hearing.
At the start of the meeting, the overflow crowd was asked to limit comments to new information, not repeating information shared at the previous meeting. The final vote was 3-1, with Southern Pines Mayor Pro Tem Paul Murphy casting the lone dissenting vote.
Speaking to the Sandhills Sentinel after the meeting, Southern Pines resident Felicia Winfield expressed her disappointment but vowed to continue to fight to protect her neighborhood.
In other business, the council discussed a requested change to the ordinances concerning skateboards in Southern Pines. Currently, ordinances permit skateboards (and similar devices) on most streets but not in the business district or on private property.
Goneau, who is the builder for the SW Service Road development, addressed the council about his concerns about outdated ordinances.
Local builder Marcel Goneau.
He recounted several incidents where his son had encounters with the Southern Pines police concerning his skateboard. Several council members expressed concern about safety, stating, “it has to be safe for everyone.” Southern Pines town staff was tasked with reviewing the existing ordinances and will report to the council later.
The council was also updated on the purchase of Blanche Carter Park. The town is negotiating to purchase the 4-acre site. According to Town Manager Reagan Parsons, discussions with the Southern Pines Housing and Land Trust are ongoing, meaning that a public hearing will be necessary for the near future.
Parsons also addressed several budget items, including the need to increase employee compensation. Stating that the current market for employees is cutthroat, and the town has several open positions and is having a hard time recruiting qualified candidates.
The worldwide vehicle chip shortage is also having an effect here. Several vehicles ordered as part of Fiscal Year 2021 may not be delivered until the following year.
Finally, Jennifer Hunt was welcomed to the town staff. Hunt will be working in the town’s planning development and is originally from San Diego, California.
The next Southern Pines Town Council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 12 at the Douglass Community Center. The meeting will start at 6 p.m.
~Article, photos, and video by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Chris Prentice.