Thursday, July 18, 2024

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Annexation and rezoning approved for two big projects on Buckhorn Rd.

Mebane’s city council voted for annexation and rezoning requests for two projects, totaling about 134 acres along Buckhorn Road, on Monday night.

The vote to approve annexation for the first property, about 84 acres that will become a trucking and freight terminal, was 3-2, with mayor pro tem Tim Bradley and council members Katie Burkholder and Montrena Hadley voting in favor.  Council members Sean Ewing and Jonathan White voted against.

The council also split 4-1 – with White casting the lone opposing vote – in voting to approve a conditional rezoning request for heavy manufacturing for the same property.

The public hearing on the rezoning became quite extended as vendors approached the council asking for a longer lead time for closing the existing flea market on the site.  The developer agreed to extend the time for ending the flea market from July 15 to August 14.  [See separate story this edition.]

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Both sites are across Buckhorn Road from the Petro Travel Center off I-85/40; the first, closest to the interstate, is currently home to the Buckhorn flea market; both are within Mebane’s extraterritorial jurisdiction but just over the Alamance County line, in western Orange County.

Both Ewing and White, as well other council members, appeared sympathetic to the concerns voiced by Buckhorn flea market vendors – who turned out en masse Monday night to ask the council to give them three months to vacate the property, rather than the July 15 deadline they had been given to remove their merchandise and booths from the premises (see related story, this edition).

Vendors were informed that Sunday, June 30 would be the last day of sales at the Buckhorn flea market, based on a copy of a June 12 letter from the property manager to the vendors that was posted on Facebook.

David Pokela, an attorney with the Maynard Nexsen law firm in Greensboro that’s representing the developer, R+L Carriers of Wilmington, Ohio, said later Monday night, “Once annexation occurs, operating and selling is no longer an option.  The only thing we can do is try to extend the time to remove items.”

City attorney Lawson Brown confirmed for the council later in the discussion that operation of a flea market would violate the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO).

That concession resulted from a half-hour backroom meeting that occurred in the middle of the public comments about the proposed trucking and freight terminal (see related story).

The existing uses for surrounding properties include light manufacturing and general business, city staff told the council Monday night.

While there is an existing subdivision nearby, the 84-acre property, currently owned by Orange County Investors Partnership, is located in what has been identified as “an industrial growth strategy,” under Mebane’s long-range land use plans.

Pokela told the council Monday night that R+L Carriers is under contract to buy the properties, pending annexation and rezoning.  “We believe this is the right use and the right location,” he added.

Stan Richards, vice president of construction and facilities services for R+L Carriers, stressed to the council this week that the company strives to be a good neighbor.  “Aesthetically, we want to maintain a nice atmosphere for employees, as well as our customers,” Richards said, displaying a photo taken six months after one of the company’s newer facilities opened, that showed a spotless interior of a maintenance shop, also one of the components of the Mebane project.

“Sixty-five percent of R+L facilities are abutting” residential development, Richards said, telling the council that R+L had sold adjoining land to a residential developer in Arlington, Tennessee, where homes ranging from $700,000 to $900,000 are underway.  “We boast ourselves on being good neighbors,” said Richards, estimating for the council that approximately 125 new jobs would be created at the Mebane facility.

Most of the R+L workforce in Mebane would consist of short-haul truck drivers, forklift operators, and administrative staff, whom Richards said would be “domiciled in Mebane.”

The site is located within one of Orange County’s three economic development districts (EDD), established for more than 900 acres in the early 1980s as part of an effort to attract non-residential development in those areas, according to a report prepared by the city’s planning staff.  Water/sewer infrastructure and gas lines were extended to the property more than a decade ago, according to Orange County officials.

White initially floated the idea of a “two-month continuance” for rezoning, “not annexation, so this remains an Orange County decision,” adding that he hoped that the landowner, R+L Carriers, and the flea market vendors could come up with a solution that might work for everyone involved.

White’s suggestion, however, ultimately failed to gain traction with the council.

“Procedurally, you could defer action on the annexation by continuing the annexation hearing that we’re hearing now,” said Brown.  “That continuance of the hearing would not include the offered condition [to extend the deadline for vendors to vacate to August 14] with regard to zoning.”

“I sincerely appreciate the August 14 extension,” Burkholder said.  “The R+L project looks great; it would be a wonderful addition to the community.  We are limited, as government officials, [on] what we can and can’t do between parties…This one’s tough.”

The city’s planning staff recommended approval for both the annexation and rezoning after concluding that the proposed trucking and freight terminal would be with Mebane’s long-range development goals.

The truck terminal would span approximately 135,950 square feet and have 202 doors; the preliminary plan for that project also calls for construction of 7,500 square feet of office space, a maintenance building, as well as parking for 320 employees and 296 truck parking spaces.

A future expansion of the truck terminal could span about 53,000 square feet, with an additional 81 doors, or bays, based on the preliminary site plan.

After considerably more discussion, the annexation request passed 3-2 and rezoning, 4-1.

Rezoning and annexation for “Buckhorn Industrial” passes 5-0

However, Mebane city council members were unanimous in voting 5-0 Monday night to approve a second request to rezone five parcels, totaling 49.25 acres along Buckhorn Road, for light manufacturing/conditional use for two future large warehouses.

The site, farther south than the trucking facility, is located at 706 and 710 Buckhorn Road.  It was also part of the same “Buckhorn EDD” that Orange County government officials created in the early 1980s to encourage economic development in that part of the county.

The plans call for construction of a “warehouse distribution facility” spanning 233,740 square feet and fronting West Ten Road, with parking for 142 employees and up to 46 loading bays, based on preliminary plans submitted to the city.

Attorney Michael Fox of the Tuggle Duggins law firm told the council Monday night that the warehouse property is “more of a speculative” use, adding that no portion of the flea market is on that site.

“We don’t have a definitive user,” Fox said, adding that the applicant for the warehouse property had asked for flexibility with the number of buildings that can be built on the site, due to the currently unknown details about the needs of a future tenant or tenants.

A public hearing on that proposal drew no speakers, for or against.

A second warehouse facility could be built directly behind the first and span 292,640 square feet, with parking for 189 employees, based on the preliminary site plan that has been submitted to the city.

The city’s staff had also recommended approval of that rezoning request, concluding that the use serve’s Mebane’s long-range goal of supporting industrial development in that part of the city.

Rezoning and annexation for the 49-acre property passed 5-0. 

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