The Southern Pines Planning Board held their March meeting beginning at 7:00 P.M. in the Douglass Community Center on Pennsylvania Ave. Only four of the Board members were present, and Vice Chair Gerard Ridzon presided. The sole item on the agenda was a public hearing on the Morganton Park South master plan proposal.
Planning Director Bart Nukols presented an overview of the proposal after which the Board asked the applicants to make their presentation. There were a great many questions raised about the master plan of this current development phase and about the overall development "vision" for the entire property, north and south of Morganton Road.
I was very troubled by the aggressive attempts to redesign the development to include a "public meeting or event area". This amounts to confiscatory behavior on the part of the Board as does the 800 foot "buffer zone" on both sides of Morganton Road specified in the Morganton Road overlay plan. This is an outrageous confiscation of private property by the Town of Southern Pines. Even the Board members agreed that seizure (my word, but that's exactly what enforcement of such a buffer would be) of property such as this was unreasonable and doesn't make good sense. Nevertheless, the Board held this unreasonable buffer requirement over the developers' heads, essentially as blackmail to force agreement with other Board demands.
I was also greatly troubled by the repeated assertions of how valuable this property was to the Town. Valuable to the Town? These words, the way they were delivered, and the entire tone came across as a very socialistic -- even communistic -- view of the matter. Who owns this property, the Town or those who hold the deed(s) and who are spending their own treasure to develop this property? The assertion of how valuable this property is to the "Town" conveys a very collectivist mentality. I am not pleased whatsoever.
As for the demand that the property owner produce an overall "vision" or "master plan" for all of his property, not just this phase, I was not surprised to hear the applicant state a fear of becoming "locked in" to some tentative, general "vision" that will probably drastically change with time and future conditions. The Town is placing too many obstacles and regulations in the way of private property rights and good sound business decisions. This must change.
The Morganton Park South proposal is a very attractive and quality plan for a shopping area as part of a continuing mixed-use development of the idle land remaining along Morganton Road. The applicant has, as he describes in the video, already made a number of major concessions to the Town. I believe this will be a fine addition to Southern Pines, and I hope our Town Council will "rein in" the Planning Board in the interest of private property rights, healthy growth, and quality development. No confiscatory behavior should be tolerated.
A copy of the proposed master plan for this phase of the Morganton Park South development may be found here.