Pinehurst’s Village Council has signed off on a 1.5-cent increase in property taxes for the coming year, bringing the tax rate to 31.5 cents for each dollar of valuation.
Council members needed little discussion during their meeting on Tuesday before unanimously approving the village’s budget for the 2022 fiscal year.
The bulk of the increase will support Pinehurst’s acquisition of Given Memorial Library and Tufts Archives. The village will add the library’s five employees to its payroll when it formally takes over management sometime this fall.
The other half-cent increase was originally proposed last year to offset inflation, a rise in employer contributions to the state’s employee pension fund and increases in county recycling and tipping fees. At that point, early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Village Council decided against adding to residents’ economic burden.
At $24 million, the budget for the upcoming year is six percent larger than the current one. That takes into account the library as well as six additional employees — two firefighters, a planning and zoning specialist, a financial services supervisor, a solid waste equipment operator and a part-time code technician — that will be added to Pinehurst’s payroll to deal with the growing village’s expanding workload.
The 1.5-cent tax increase is the first of several planned over the next few years after more than a decade with a relatively flat rate.
“It’s been incredibly steady. In 2005 it was 31 cents, and now it’s going up half a penny,” said Councilwoman Lydia Boesch. “That just tells me that you guys who work on this budget for six months work very hard to keep a stable tax rate.”
The Village Council voted in a separate motion on Tuesday to dedicate $725,000 of Pinehurst’s general fund balance to facility improvements at the Given Memorial Library and Tufts Archives. The village previously pledged, as part of its agreement with the library board, to spend $1 million of its savings to enhance the library building.
In the 2022 fiscal year the village is planning to spend $400,000 in architectural and design fees for a building expansion a few years down the road, $275,000 improving building accessibility, and $50,000 installing fiber optic cable to the building.
Hotel debate continues
In other business on Tuesday, the Village Council continued discussing Pinehurst Resort’s plans to build a hotel on Carolina Vista Drive adjacent to Pinehurst Country Club.
Bob Koontz of Koontz Jones Design has applied on behalf of the resort to rezone the 2.7-acre site from Recreation Development and Office Professional to Hotel Conditional. The building footprint is set where there are currently a pair of croquet courts adjacent to the resort’s Cradle short course. Plans show new croquet lawns across the existing golf cart path from the hotel site.
That conditional rezoning allows the project specific deviations, with the agreement of the Village Council, from the standards established in the Pinehurst Development Ordinance for hotel zoning.
Conditions the resort is requesting would allow the building to exceed the 50-foot height limit by up to five feet, and for signs in certain areas to be larger than the ordinance would otherwise allow.
But parking is the primary sticking point in negotiations between the village and resort. The resort hopes to have what it’s calling The Lodge at Pinehurst open well in time for the U.S. Open Championship in 2024.
In discussions so far Village Council members have been amenable to the resort’s plans to hold off on expanding parking for the Lodge itself until after that event. The Pinehurst Development Ordinance requires 62 spaces in connection with the planned 34 rooms and conference space. Another 12 spaces will be removed during construction.
As one of the conditions to the rezoning, the resort is proposing that it present plans to add up to 125 new parking spaces on the main Pinehurst Country Club campus three months before the 2024 U.S. Open. As proposed, that condition would give the resort some flexibility to change that number if it diminishes the ultimate scope of the Lodge project, down to no less than 85.
Dick Higginbotham, the resort’s chief financial officer, said that those 125 parking spaces could be installed either as surface parking over the six tennis courts east of Carolina Vista, or as a multilevel parking deck in the existing parking lot west of Carolina Vista.
Changes in the Pinehurst Development Ordinance between now and 2024 will likely influence that decision.
“When we’re going to decide the exact choice is going to be somewhat up to the village, somewhat up to us, somewhat up to forces behind both of our control,” said Higginbotham.
But the new parking to absorb demand related to the hotel is just part of the resort’s overall plans.
Last year the resort and village agreed, as part of a 10-year economic incentive package, to work toward a separate solution to the parking shortage at the Carolina Hotel. To that end, the resort is planning to add 86 new spaces between three existing parking lots at the Carolina Hotel by the end of this year.
But council members are also worried about overflow parking for resort employees and shuttle drivers. The proposed U.S. Golf Association headquarters will be sited at the corner of Beulah Hill and Cherokee Roads where the current overflow parking area sits.
After more than two hours of discussion on Tuesday, some council members requested more detail on the resort’s baseline parking needs and how they related to the existing campus and golfing, dining and events that go on there.
“What I’m not seeing in here, although you’ve got a list of the number of existing spaces, you don’t have anywhere a breakdown of the existing needs for, setting aside the Lodge, setting aside the U.S. Opens, setting aside the USGA, what’s the background drumbeat of parking needs?” asked Councilwoman Jane Hogeman.
“We don’t know with the background number of club spaces, that’s the easiest way to say it, whether you’re already ahead of the game, you’ve already got extra spaces or whether you’re short some spaces.”
In the interest of accelerating negotiations over parking and potentially set the stage for a vote later this month, Mayor John Strickland suggested that a working group of council members and Pinehurst planning staff convene with the resort to finalize an agreement.
“I don’t think the members of the Village Council are going to agree to this transaction and the conditions unless we see pretty hard numbers we’re comfortable with, and the only way I think we’re going to get to that is to have the two parties around the table,” said Strickland.
Councilmember Kevin Drum suggested that the new spaces proposed at the Carolina Hotel be added to the list of conditions connected to the rezoning request for the new hotel, but Higginbotham demurred.
Drum also questioned whether that parking would be sufficient to deal with what he termed the “Ritter Road chaos” of vehicles parking in pine straw along the perimeter of the Carolina Hotel campus during peak hours.
Councilwomen Lydia Boesch and Judy Davis both said they’re comfortable proceeding without adding that parking to the list of stipulations.
“I personally think it doesn’t have anything to do with the rezoning that’s going on across the street, so I’m perfectly fine to leave it out,” said Davis.
“Well it kind of does,” Drum responded. “They’re not being forced to build parking before the building is occupied so all the parking will be at the Carolina. So it’s going to be a massive crapstorm for four years, so the Carolina is in play.”
Village Manager Jeff Sanborn suggested that Village Council members’ aims for the parking plan may be too ambitious since what parking issues exist have not spilled over to the rest of the village.
“I understand everybody’s position on this and why this is such a sensitive issue for everybody on all sides. Parking is a big deal and we continue to hear from our community concerns about parking across the village and, we hear from time to time, on this campus,” said Sanborn.
“What we’re all talking about is customer dissatisfaction. That’s their concern. You all can take up that concern at the municipal level, I just don’t know that it’s our role.”