The Southern Pines Town Council held their August work session meeting at the Southern Pines Police Dept. Community Room beginning at 3 pm on Monday, Aug. 27. The items were addressed in slightly different order than shown on the meeting agenda.

First up was discussion of a special permit to deviate from the Town's sign ordinance for the local GM dealership. The dealership's signs total to less square footage than allowed by the ordinance; however, because of the design of the signage, the dealership cannot use their remaining allowed square footage to place a sign at the service entrance. The dealership is in violation of its franchise contract with General Motors and is being pressured to bring its service signage into compliance. However, the Town's sign ordinance will not allow compliance. After discussion, the Council directed the Town staff and lawyer to work with the dealership to find a way to either comply with the ordinance or to recommend a special permit which will resolve the problem for this dealership without broader ramifications.

Comment: The Town of Southern Pines has very restrictive sign ordinances which date back 18 years or so. The Town has been trying to "get it right" for all those many years. Yet nearly every month, the Town Council finds itself in discussions with one business or another about why the Town's ordinance will not reasonably accommodate their business needs. Time after time, the town finds a way to grant special permission for this or that deviation in a common sense "one time" solution. I'm certain when this all began, the Town Council and staff at that time thought that establishing a sign ordinance would be a relatively simple affair. But after 18 years of diligently trying, they still haven't gotten it right. Nothing is simple, and the more you try to regulate, the more problems you cause. Some regulation is necessary to prevent excess and extremes, obviously. But the tighter you regulate, the more difficult it is to enforce -- until in the ultimate form, enforcement can only come "at the barrel of a gun", as Mao so fondly stated.

Next, a resident complained about dogs running loose in the Town and endangering leashed dogs and their handlers. She urged the Town Council to establish an Animal Control Dept. with police dispatching, perhaps jointly operated with adjacent towns or the county. To help fund the additional costs she recommended that the Town establish an animal registration and licensing program with a database of all pets with taxes levied on each animal license.

From the discussions it is clear that there are some residents of Southern Pines who do not respect their neighbors nor the Town's leash ordinance. Rather than grow the Town government, raise taxes, and impose on all residents' lives and freedoms, why can't we just address those residents who do not comply with existing laws? Why do some people always want government to solve every problem with more agencies and more taxes? It baffles me.

Next came a discussion of a piece of property which is a portion of old roadway right-of-way. Circumstances have arisen whereby the use and ownership of the property is in question. The adjacent property owner has been maintaining the property for many years and now has a need to expand his structure, but is prevented from doing so by the ordinances involving setback. To resolve this issue, he requested that the Town Council grant him ownership so that he can comply with the applicable ordinances. In return he offered to grant the Town extensive easements, access and rights to use most of the parcel. The issue remains under consideration and study.

Finally, the Town Manager reviewed the history of the Forest Creek development's obligations in the potential construction of the Nick's Creek Parkway. The request by the Forest Creek residents to be somehow relieved of their financial liabilities were the Parkway to be built (in order to obtain financing to purchase their club and common areas from the developer) was left unresolved pending further discussions and considerations.

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