A small neighborhood shopping area on N.C. 5 will lead to a 515-home residential subdivision near the new Aberdeen Elementary site, according to conceptual plans presented to the Aberdeen Planning Board on Thursday.
The Aberdeen Planning Board recommended approval of the conditional zoning and conditional use permit (PUD) applications. The Aberdeen Board of Commissioners will review plans during a public hearing in late October.
The 230-acre site known as the “Martin property” has been eyed for potential development for several years. Located adjacent to the former Pit Golf Course now owned by Pinehurst Resort, this section of N.C. 5 — and Aberdeen as a whole — has become an increasingly attractive area for investment.
Southern Pines land planner Bob Koontz of Koontz Jones Design presented an application on behalf of Mid-State Development, LLC. He anticipated the project would fill out over 10 to 15 years.
The existing land use would permit up to 2.62 units per acre; however, that calculation does not include land set aside for right-of-way or designated wetland areas. Koontz estimated the proposed project’s zoning density is closer to 2.23 units per acre.
“The idea is to create a walkable community,” he said, calling attention to the multi-use greenway path and sidewalks that connect the residential sections to the small retail and office area and new school site.
The project would be served by public utilities, including water service and the new gravity-fed sewer line recently installed.
Town leaders first began exploring options to split the cost to install a gravity-fed sewer line in 2017. The school system’s only other option for the N.C. 5 site would have been to construct a pump station and sewer line extension that would cost of $450,000 — in essence, the same cost burden — but service would have been restricted to the school and long-term maintenance costs would have run higher.
Instead a cost-share agreement was determined to be more advantageous for all three parties, and would allow for organized development in this section of Aberdeen.
Addressing Environmental Concerns
The Board of Education has been questioned in recent months for buying land on N.C. 5 for the new school because of its proximity to several abandoned pesticide dump sites that were cleaned up in the late 1980s and mid-1990s.
The 280-acre tract that encompasses both the school campus and Martin Property were never on the list of federal sites identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and commonly known as Superfund sites. The land is located between the “Fairway Six” site on the former Pit Golf Course and the “McIver Dump” site off Roseland Road.
Those two are among five Superfund sites in Aberdeen. They remain under monitoring and reports are issued every five years. The last report, issued in 2018, found no significant risks. In addition, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality reviews results from a number of wells monitoring groundwater contamination in the area.
Earlier this summer, Moore County Schools commissioned a more comprehensive study, known as a Phase II environmental assessment, on the school site.
According to the geological engineering firm that prepared the report, the results of the study do not indicate “significant environmental risks,” on the school site, but engineers say that trace amounts of pesticides detected in the groundwater, though not even near state or federal limits requiring action, nevertheless render it unusable for drinking or irrigation.
The school never had any plans to use groundwater for irrigation or as a drinking source. Koontz said plans for the Martin Property subdivision do not include groundwater for any purpose.
“The property has been agricultural forever. It was a cattle farm for years and has been wooded land more recently. Based on the history of the property and the results of the Phase II study, we do not feel the further testing is necessary,” Koontz said, in a phone interview with The Pilot following the Planning Board meeting.
He noted that Aberdeen’s zoning ordinance would not allow for irrigation wells on the lots.
“Any irrigation in the development would come from the town’s water supply. And any drinking water in the development would also come from the town’s water supply,” Koontz said.
Roadwork on Hold
Traffic congestion on N.C. 5 has increased over the last few years. According to state transportation (DOT) officials, traffic counts range from 10,600 to 14,700 vehicles a day through the southern section in Aberdeen, which is bumping up against the roadway’s intended capacity.
By 2040, those counts are expected to increase to between 18,900 to 24,200 vehicles a day.
The DOT has recommended $9.8 million in road modernization and improvements along N.C. 5 between U.S. 1 in Aberdeen and the Pinehurst village limit. The 4.4-mile project area parallels the Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railway, which means expansion can only be to the western side of N.C. 5.
Plans call for a three-lane section between Blake Boulevard and Linden Road, that would widen to a four-lane divided roadway from Linden Road to downtown Aberdeen.
The northern section of N.C. 5 through Pinehurst will also see some improvements in the future, including new turn lanes and signal improvements that will allow for better traffic flow.
Unfortunately, due to a money crunch, DOT recently announced a statewide slowdown on pending projects. These changes impact the timeline for widening N.C. 5 in Aberdeen, with construction work now postponed until after the 2024 U.S. Open golf championship in Pinehurst.
The primary entrance to the new Aberdeen school site and the proposed development would be located within the section of N.C. 5 scheduled for widening to a four-lane boulevard.
The conceptual plan Koontz presented shows the new school entrance would be widened to also serve the subdivision and shopping area proposed.
In addition, the Martin Property would have a secondary access point to Rowe Street, which connects to Sand Pit Road. A third access point proposed would connect the subdivision’s “spine road” to Roseland Road during the final phase of construction.
A traffic impact analysis projected 7,870 new trips per day by 2028. These figures would be in addition to potential new traffic generated by the new 800-student elementary school.
Moore County Schools also conducted a traffic impact analysis as part of its planning. That study recommended a lighted signal would be needed on N.C. 5 to prevent long lines within the new elementary school site. But the projected traffic volume and limited ‘peak hours’ of school traffic did not meet the state Department of Transportation (DOT) criteria for a light. Instead, dedicated turn lanes on N.C. 5, southbound and northbound, will help channel incoming traffic.
Koontz said the Martin Property subdivision — if approved, and once the first phase was developed — would likely generate enough traffic to meet the state’s threshold for the addition of a lighted signal.