Pinehurst approves five-year financial plan

Ongoing debate on short-term rentals continues 

PINEHURST – The Village of Pinehurst Council met Tuesday, April 12 to discuss the five-year financial plan for the upcoming fiscal years and to continue the community dialogue on short-term rentals through the public comments.

The council was presented with an operating plan for the 2023 Fiscal Year and along with a five-year financial plan through 2027. The council normally builds a five-year plan to help project finances and their impacts on the village, but those plans are subject to changes each year. 

“What the five-year plan methodology does is let us build a budget that is adopted by the council each year,” said Village Manager Jeff Sanborn. “Everything in the five-year plan is just that. A plan. It’s telling us where we think we’re going. In the next year we are going to go through the effort to update that plan and it might look a little bit or a lot of bit different. But we have a sense of where we’re going and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every year.”

The council approved the basic plan, drafted by village staff, that focused on three areas: managing development, supporting local business and providing a safe and effective multi-modal transportation system.

“When we talk about opportunities for improvement and innovation, we break things down into evaluations, projects and initiative action plans,” Sanborn said. “We are careful to make sure that before we start spending money and resources on things, we know what we want to do and the best way to accomplish it. So in many cases, we build into a plan a requirement to do an evaluation and then once we have ourselves set, it might later result in a project or initiative action plan.”

The plan features 26 evaluations to be conducted over the five years with the top six being evaluating the Village’s process for document imaging, ways to automate employee timekeeping, fire inspection process, return pickup system, road patching services and recruitment and hiring processes.

The Strategic Operating Plan also features 46 projects over the five-year span with the nine most significant being to construct pedestrian facilities, conduct stormwater improvements, the development of West Pinehurst Park, streetscape enhancements at Village Place, improvements to the public safety radio, replacement of Cannon Park lighting, updating SCBA Air Packs to meet new NFPA standards, resurfacing Village Green parking lot, and initiatives to preserve and conserve open space in and around Pinehurst.

Finally, the approved plan includes seven Initiative Action Plans which include the relocation of the Public Services Complex to allow for redevelopment of Village Place, an update to the Pinehurst Development Ordinance, a small area plan for Village Place/Rattlesnake Trail Corridor and Pinehurst South/Hwy5 Commercial Area, the expansion of Downtown parking facilities, to develop a consolidated multi-modal transportation plan, retrofitting current athletic fields at Cannon Park with synthetic turf, and to expand and renovate the Given Library/Tuft Archives. 

The plan has a total projected cost of $27,099,000 for financial year 2023 which would amount to 54.9% of the total budget.

The Village has access to approximately $5.3 million from federal funds to assist with the costs of the plan.

The new plan contains the same tax rate projection as the 2022 plan — meaning there will be a 0.5 cent increase to the tax rate in 2023 to account for operating expenditures. With the proposed five-year plan, the Village is also forecasting that tax rates will increase by another 0.5 cents in 2024 and by 1 cent in 2026. 

“I would expect that property evaluations will probably go up and that’s going to have the effect of driving future tax rates down,” Sanborn said. “Then it’s going to bump back up to accommodate the cost of doing business. That’s the thought process on that. Whether that results in a lower, higher or same tax rate scheme you see here, I can’t forecast that.”

The council also approved the establishment of a new flag and lamp post banner policy for the Village. 

The policy establishes that only the U.S. flag, State of North Carolina flag and military flags are approved to be displayed and flown at Village of Pinehurst facilities, although some exceptions would be allowed.

“During Fire Prevention Week, at the fire station only, they would be allowed to fly a commemorative flag and at times they can also fly the Thin Red Line flag,” said Village Clerk,  Kelly Chance. “The other exception was at the police station for the same period during their officer appreciation or memorial week, they would be able to fly a memorial flag and often at times they would be able to fly the Thin Blue Line flag. The final exception was for the Cannon Memorial Park. We currently have the military flag and the POW flag, so they would be the only two flags that fly there.”

The policy will also allow the hanging of commemorative banners or wreaths on decorative lamp posts for special events and occasions so long as they are directly sponsored or co-sponsored by the Village.

Public debate on the allowance of short-term rentals to operate in residential neighborhoods continued again this month as the two sides dominated the public comments portion of the meeting, with over an hour and a half of comments being presented before the council.

The focus of the commentary remained the same, with those against short-term rentals citing the disturbances caused by renters and their overall disregard for the neighborhood while those for short-term rentals cited that they should have the freedom to do what they want with their property and the overall economic benefit of renters on the community.

A desire for potential third-party mediation was an idea that was echoed by multiple speakers. The council has yet to make decisions on any potential actions or ordinances related to short-term rentals.

The Village of Pinehurst Council will next meet on April 26.

By Ryan Henkel, North State Journal

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