Graham’s planning board listened to a developer’s presentation for two large warehouses along Cherry Lane and an outpouring of opposition from residents in Old Fields subdivision and nearby for about five hours Tuesday night.
At the end of public comments from more than a dozen residents, the five planning board members themselves echoed many of the concerns previously voiced by neighbors.
Planning board chairman Dean Ward reminded residents occasionally that neither the planning board nor the city council itself has any authority to restrict the kind of traffic that uses Cherry Lane. Many residents had lamented the possibility of tractor trailer trucks traversing their historically rural road and disturbing the tranquility and residential character of their area.
Brent Henderly, who said he is a regular runner along Cherry Lane, said he would not feel safe doing so with so manytractor trailers using the road as much as they would in the future. He also expressed concerns about the “wear and tear” on the roads.
As many residents did, Henderly, who moved into the Old Fields subdivision four years ago, said the projects “will absolutely destroy the value of our homes.”
Another opponent of the projects was a local engineer, Chad Huffine, whose more frequent role is as a spokesman for other projects. Instead, Huffine, who spoke often and long, analyzed and dissected aspects of the proposal, even presenting board members with a written report on his findings and views against the projects.
But other specific aspects of the proposed projects also drew scrutiny.
Having the large buildings, potentially as tall as 50 feet, located so close to the street was particularly worrisome to both many speakers and members of the planning board.
It was pointed out that other nearby distribution centers in the same Hawfields-area industrial park – Walmart, Lidl, and Amazon – have considerably more distance from the road, at least 100 feet or more.
At least one resident, Al Thomas, suggested that the closest parallel he could find of an industrial building be so closely located to a residential subdivision was the Alamance Foods warehouse in Burlington which is about 400 feet from the entrance to Hanford Hills, a residential subdivision off Hanford Road.
Several people used the term that the warehouses were “squeezed” onto the properties in question. However, the developer’s representatives noted that wetlands on the back sides of the properties pose difficulties in using the acreage most effectively.
After the public comment session, when planning board members started talking about the issues among themselves, the discussion turned to just how far back the buildings should be situated.
Also at issue was improving the screening from the road, by adding a berm, as well as heavy vegetative buffers.
In the face of a bevy of suggestions and obvious reluctance of planning board members to proceed, Marc Isaacson, the attorney representing Atlanta-based Intersect Development Group, offered to postpone the company’s proposal until the planning board’s January 18 meeting.
Isaacson’s offer was after he first tried to get the planning board to finalize action on the smaller of the two warehouses (400,000 square feet, as opposed to 825,000 square feet); but planning board members soon started scrutinizing that project, as well. It had not drawn the same ire of residents as the larger one at the corner of Cherry Lane and Governor Scott Farm Road.
In the interim, the company will consider revising its proposal to meet some of the most strenuous objections of planning board members and residents.