Thursday, June 13, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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Graham city council rejects trailer storage lot on 3-2 vote


Graham’s city council spent more than two hours Tuesday night hearing a proposal to establish a tractor trailer storage facility with a gravel parking lot along the Interstate Service Road near I-85/40.

Graham mayor Jennifer Talley led the skepticism and criticism of the proposal, ultimately convincing her colleagues, all of whom at one point expressed varying degrees of sympathy or outright support for the project, to support her motion to reject it, 3-2.

The concept for the rezoning is a fairly new one regionally, and the first for Alamance County.

The 5.5-acre lot at the end of the Interstate Service Road, just off East Gilbreath Street near the interstate, would have 122 parking spaces for tractor trailers.

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The concept described was that truck drivers would be able to store, or switch out, their trailers at the rental lot. They could then access the interstate, or nearby state roads, NC 54 or NC 87, to proceed to their ultimate destinations.

But Talley seized on local appraiser Glenn Patterson’s assessment for the developer that the facility would not have any positive or negative impact on surrounding property values as evidence that the city could, and should, do better in what it attracted to valuable land near the interstate.

Talley also challenged whether the view from the interstate would be unsightly, even if a six-foot chain link fence, with black screening, was included, as the developer offered.

Talley also challenged the security at the lot. On a 3-2 vote at the planning board earlier this spring, the majority had recommended a manned guard house be included at the front entrance to the lot.

[Story continues below layout of the proposed trailer storage lot.]

But Chad Huffine, a local engineer hired by the company, said that a full-time, on-site employee “was not a part of the [company’s] business model.” He said a “key pad” entry system would be the company’s preferred method to provide what they considered to be the same degree of security at less cost.

Talley also speculated that even though no truckers were supposed to spend the night on the lot according to the company’s presentation, she said enforcement would be difficult to ensure since there’d be no one to inspect or oversee the lot. “There’d be no one there to monitor it,” she said.

Council members Bonnie Whitaker and Bobby Chin were the most supportive of the company’s proposal – and skeptical of Talley’s concerns and objections.

“If somebody wants to get in, they will,” Whitaker speculated as concerns about the standards of fencing were discussed.

Chin challenged the mayor, saying she was “trying to change human nature” and “trying to put lipstick on an industrial area” and “overthinking its use.”

He said if vandalism became a problem, the company would inevitably take action to improve security, including adding cameras.

Chin said that the mayor’s objections were “making something complicated” when the proposal was a “legitimate use of the land.”

But Talley insisted that the council should await a project with a more financially attractive use for the “finite amount of [undeveloped] property” in the city, saying there would be no additional revenue to the city from the truck storage.

After more than two hours of discussion, Talley initiated a motion to deny the rezoning request.

Initially, Talley and mayor pro tem Ricky Hall voted for the motion; Chin and Whitaker voted against; and councilman Joey Parsons wanted to abstain.

When it was explained that an abstention, under state law, would be counted as an affirmative vote, Parsons changed his vote to an affirmative one, ensuring a 3-2 vote in favor of Talley’s denial motion.

See earlier planning board deliberations on the proposal:

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