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Mebane city council skeptical of developer’s request to remove road connection as condition for building Tractor Supply store


A year ago, Meb-ane’s city council members thought they had approved a rezoning proposal for a Tractor Supply store off Mebane Oaks Road behind Wendy’s and Chick-fil-A. The 6.19-acre lot would be at the corner of Forest Oaks Lane and Wilson Road, which currently runs behind the two fast-food restaurants.

But key to that approval was an assurance from the developer that he would be able to get additional land in order to extend Wilson Road behind Chick-fil-A to connect to a stub-out road being built by DOT at the intersection with the entrance to Walmart.

Developer Mark Tiller of Hendon Properties in Atlanta told the council last year he was “confident we can work it out” with the neighboring property owner.  Mayor Ed Hooks said at the time that opening Wilson Road to the new traffic light at Walmart would be a “tremendous move” to improve traffic flow in the area.

Tiller even told the council last year that he had met with the property owner on the day of the council meeting and was on the verge of getting a “memorandum of understanding” with the neighboring property owner about the land needed for the roadway.

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But Tiller was back this month, a year later, to report that he had been unable to negotiate acquiring the additional land from Roger Shields, the owner of the adjacent parcels, in order to build the connector road.

As a result of that fact, Tiller this week was asking for the city to remove the “condition” for the Wilson Road extension from the zoning conditions that the council had attached last year. Tiller had voluntarily included that condition in last year’s proposal, but now asked that it be removed.

Development director Ashley Ownbey had described the applicant’s commitment last year “to acquire” the right-of-way needed to build the road.

But Tiller’s explanation this year, what that his company was willing to build the road, at an estimated cost of $120,000, but had assumed the neighbor would allow the acquisition of extra land at no charge.

While the city’s planning board had willingly gone along with the revised request last month, 7-0, city council members were clearly less enthusiastic about agreeing to the new proposal scrapping the promised roadway.

Councilman Jonathan White pressed Tiller about how much he had worked with Shields to try to resolve the issue. In particular, White wanted to know what Tiller had offered to pay for the needed right-of-way.

[Story continues below maps of potential future Tractor Supply site in Mebane.]

Tiller emphasized that his development company was willing to pay for building the road, but had expected to get the extra land at no cost. Tiller ultimately revealed that the third of an acre needed, at a $600,000 per acre valuation Shields had suggested, would translate to about $200,000.

White also pressed on how recently Tiller had discussed the issue with Shields.  When he learned that it had been about six months, he urged Tiller to re-establish contact to try to work something out.  When Ownbey said that the first communication asking about changes coming from Tiller’s company was in September, members were visibly irritated, apparently feeling that Tiller had abandoned efforts far too soon.

Various council members scoffed at the notion that Shields, who several indicated they knew – both in person and by reputation – would ever agree to “give” his land away for free.

Tiller went through a series of explanations detailing his unsuccessful interactions with Shields, who didn’t want to involve lawyers, doesn’t communicate via internet or text, and met only sporadically over the past year. His conclusion: “In our minds, he kind of changed the deal on us.”

Tiller said his whole approach from the outset was that his company would build the road, but that Shields would donate the land through which it was to run.

White pressed, “This whole [road] connection, we’re here tonight over, $200,000?”

Councilman Sean Ewing added, “Just $200,000? What am I missing here?”

Councilman Tim Bradley joined the skepticism, “I thought the understanding was that you would acquire the property.  Was your understanding of acquire ‘get it donated’?”

Bradley added, “We were given absolute assurances that you could get the road built. I don’t recall hearing [about] the donation of the land.”

Mayor Ed Hooks, who does not vote except in cases of a tie, told Tiller, “This is not baffling – if you know the gentleman [referring to Shields].”

Hooks also summarized what seemed to be a consensus among most council members, “What’s stopping this is your unwillingness to buy the right-of-way.”

After almost an hour of discussion, White made a motion to continue the item until the council’s June 3 meeting in order to allow Tiller to renew discussions with Shields about the road connection.

“I think this can be made to happen,” White said.

“If the road’s not built, I don’t know that we can put a Tractor Supply on that parcel,” concluded Bradley.

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