Sunday, September 26, 2021

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
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Council agrees to consider partnership to expand sewer connection on outskirts of Graham, near Haw River

Graham’s monthly city council meeting was, again this month, the venue for disagreement among former partners of a potential apartment complex off Jimmie Kerr Road and Truby Drive.

The council has two competing projects, both seeking rezoning for multi-family developments.

This 55-acre parcel, beside the Haw River and I-85/40 and behind Days Inn, was originally proposed for 528 apartments in 22 buildings. This week, the developers’ representative said they are now considering a modification to allow a hotel and potentially commercial space, as well.

This was the original layout proposed in January that has 22 apartment buildings on the 55-acre site.

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At the time it was first filed, at the beginning of the year, Graham resident Travers Webb was the spokesperson for those seeking a conditional rezoning in order to build 528 apartments (with 1,056 bedrooms) on 55 acres that would face I-85/40.

The property is at the end of Truby Drive, a two-lane road beside Graham’s Days Inn off Jimmie Kerr Road near two truck stops at the Jimmie Kerr Road exit (on the opposite side of the interstate from Alamance Community College).

However, in the intervening months, Webb has separately filed a rezoning request for 11 acres beside the Days Inn, facing Jimmie Kerr Road, also for multi-family rezoning.

Meanwhile, various members of the companies behind the first request have made overtures to the city about how to expand sewer service.

This week John Burton and his brother Jack Burton were present for the discussion, although most of the talking was done by the Greensboro development attorney they have hired to navigate the issue, Amanda Hodierne.

Hodierne has represented other developers, primarily Desco Holdings, a company owned by Eric Dischinger, who has two residential housing projects approved in Mebane (one of which, Cambridge Park, is already under construction) and another in Swepsonville where roadwork and infrastructure have begun. She also recently represented Windsor Homes during an appearance before Graham’s city council in May.

Graham officials have told both sets of would-be developers that the city cannot envision rezoning for additional housing, particularly with the density of apartments, in an area that is already at capacity for the city’s current sewer capacity levels.

The city would have to undertake considerable expense in order to expand its sewer treatment capacity to handle either of the new projects or any additional ones, city officials have explained at several recent meetings. City officials have alluded to the fact that they would want developers to contribute some or all of the cost of expanding the city’s sewer capacity in the area.

Hodierne used her time at the podium this week to request some guidance, specifically preferences of council members, for which of several options to pursue in how to structure, and fund, an expansion of the city’s sewer capacity.

She also introduced the possibility of changing the zoning request from simply 22 buildings with all apartments to a “mixed use” that might include a hotel and possibly some commercial areas. City officials and council members have previously hinted that they would like to see something other than just apartments on the property in question.

She floated the possibility of “upgrading” the city’s sewer line that runs through the property, an expansion which might support as many as 300 or so apartments – although only about half the number being sought.

But “thinking outside the box,” she also raised the possibility of a “regional approach” that would consider a potential joint project with the town of Haw River to address the sewer capacity in the area.

During the discussion, it was noted that the Burtons also own another 100 acres or so farther down Jimmie Kerr Road that would be exclusively within Haw River’s jurisdiction.

Alamance News publisher Tom Boney, Jr., present to cover the city council meeting, raised the question of whether Haw River might proceed with its own approval of apartments for the second Burton-owned property, especially if Graham did not find a way to accommodate the brothers’ first project.

Mayor Jerry Peterman and each of the other council members voiced support for the regional approach that Hodierne had outlined, while all gave the caveat that the idea does not yet have clear parameters.

Meanwhile, when Webb had his turn at the podium, he took umbrage that Hodierne was purporting to speak about the project that he had initiated.

John Burton explained that he and his brothers would be buying out the other property owners – he said they would likely close on the purchase later this week – and when they have sole ownership, they would terminate Webb’s involvement in the first project.

The council agreed to postpone further discussion of the rezoning for the first project until the council’s August 10 meeting, with the hope that alternatives might be developed to address sewer capacity throughout the Jimmie Kerr Road corridor.

Meanwhile, when Webb’s rezoning request for the 11 acres came up, he pressed the council for a decision.

Webb’s 11-acre project is beside the Days Inn on Jimmie Kerr Road – shown as B2 zoning on the left (west) side of Jimmie Kerr Road on the city’s map, above. At the back of the property, it adjoins the 55 acres of another proposed project with which Webb was originally involved.

While Peterman cautioned him that if the council turned it down, Webb would be precluded from bringing back another proposal for the same rezoning for six months – a limit applied to all rezoning requests if turned down by the council.

Webb had initially pressed at last month’s meeting, but finally seemed to be dissuaded by his son, George T. Webb, IV, but this month the son was not present and Webb pressed ahead for a decision on rezoning the 11 acres.

City officials agreed that Webb wouldn’t be able to get plans approved to build anything on the acreage, even if it were rezoned, because of the inadequacy of sewer service to the site.

Still, council members expressed a reluctance to grant the requested rezoning without resolving the sewer service issues.

Only council member Melody Wiggins agreed with Webb that there would be no downside – Webb insisted it would help his marketing of the property to have the multi-family designation – to allow the rezoning.

Ultimately, council member Jennfier Talley made a motion to postpone Webb’s rezoning request until the council’s August 10 meeting, when potential alternatives for both properties might be back before the city council.

Talley’s motion passed 4-1, with Wiggins opposed.

Not discussed much this week, but another previously-expressed concern for city officials, is the traffic that would be generated by the multi-family zoning along Jimmie Kerr Road, which is already home to two truck stops.

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