SOUTHERN PINES — The future of a controversial development in Southern Pines is up in the air. The town council delayed a vote on a housing and commercial complex that has been talked about for 18 months.
Concerns about the legality of a public hearing last week prompted the move. The project remains on the drawing board, for now.
The proposed Pine Needles Village would have 832 homes, 400,000-square-feet of retail and office space, tree-lined streets, a gathering area and a lake. Hines, a Houston-based developer, would build the community along U.S. 1.
Mike Haney became the new mayor of Southern Pines on Tuesday night. It was the same night the outgoing mayor wanted council members to vote on rezoning the property to a Planned Unit Development, or PUD. Instead, council members opted to hold off.
“I felt, personally, like the project would be a tremendous asset to our area,” Haney said.
The 558 acre site is undeveloped now and is a patchwork of fields and forest. But the town council might not have the votes to turn the land into a mini-city.
Four out of five council members must approve the project for it to break ground. Abigail Dowd and at least one other member have pledged to vote no. On Tuesday night, Dowd became the newest representative on town council.
“We’ve only been looking at this application for three months, and it’s a little premature to vote,” she said. “I think we can get this right, but we need to take our time.”
Haney said he thinks virtually every concern was addressed during the planning board process and neighborhood meetings. Still, opponents say it would be too densely populated and would harm wetlands.
Haney said he fears the developer could pull the plug on the project.
“I think they’re probably trying to weigh their options,” Haney said.
WRAL placed several phone calls to the developer Thursday, but they were not returned. The town council could have another public hearing on the matter in January.