Mebane’s planning board listened for almost four hours Monday night to representatives for a Buc-ee’s travel center, a smattering of supporters, and a lot of opponents of the Texas-based company before voting 6-3 against making a recommendation for the project.
A packed Mebane city hall auditorium was filled Monday night, mostly with opponents of allowing a Buc-ee’s to build in Mebane.
The Mebane site would be the company’s first in North Carolina, but about two dozen residents, mostly opponents, spoke up to oppose the huge travel plaza. Company representatives emphasized that a Buc-ee’s is not the same as a “truck stop” that typically caters to tractor-trailers; in fact, big rigs are prohibited at Buc-ee’s.
[Story continues below photos of a Buc-ee’s (as provided to the planning board by the company).]
Two competing portraits of the potential travel center and its impact on Mebane emerged.
Proponents cited the cleanliness of the stores, particularly known for its pristine restrooms, its 120 fueling stations, and a convenience store well-stocked with foods for travelers, developing a partnership with local businesses to support the local economy, providing full-time employment and benefits for 200 people (as many as some large industrial companies in the area), and with a focus on customer service and efficiency in moving large numbers of people through its stores and gas lanes.
Opponents questioned the company’s focus on what was termed the “dying fossil fuel industry,” covering acres of farmland with concrete parking lots and gas pumps, creating a “traffic nightmare” in the process, and driving small, locally-owned businesses and other gas stations out of business.
Stan Beard, Jr., Buc-ee’s director of real estate, predicted the Mebane location could attract “five million people a year walking through the door of a Mebane Buc-ee’s.”
That prospect terrified some of those in audience, who said they wanted to preserve Mebane’s quaint, small-town feel. They also questioned the value to the city of having a company whose own portrayal of its customers were of travelers who are only interested in getting in and out of a quick stop to refuel, use a restroom, and get some snacks for their journey.
The company outlined plans to pay for widening the overpass over I-85/40, widening exit ramps and entrances (and adding exit and entrance lanes) to interstate exit 152 (Trollingwood-Hawfields Road), and providing extra through lanes, dedicated turn lanes, and a stop light into the main entrance along Trollingwood-Hawfields Road.
But many Mebane residents – just now recovering from about two years of construction along the Mebane Oaks Road interchange, following a similar wait for similar improvements at the N.C. 119 interchange – were not enthusiastic about the disruption to their lives from yet another round of construction, this time at exit 152, much less the resulting “traffic nightmare” that many predicted would still be the result when road improvements were completed.
No time frame was forecast for how long road construction improvements would take, and Beard declined the newspaper’s request to specify a total tab for the amount of money the company would spend on the road improvements, all of which had been asked for by the state’s department of transportation, other than to concede a reporter’s supposition of millions of dollars.
Company representatives did assure the planning board and the crowd that all road improvements would be in place “before the store opens,” a fact Beard subsequently emphasized in a brief interview with The Alamance News.
Planning board chairman Ed Tulauskas and planning board members Colin Cannell and David Scott voted for approving the plans for Buc-ee’s. Voting against were vice chairman Judy Taylor, and members William Chapman, Keith Hoover, Kurt Pearson, Gale Pettiford, and Susan Semonite.
Editor’s Note: This is an abbreviated version of the longer story that will be posted, including many of the comments made by speakers at the planning board meeting. Check back for updates.