Friday, July 12, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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Graham city council settles with co. whose zoning was rejected for truck parking lot on 3-2 vote

Graham’s city council voted unanimously, 5-0, Tuesday night to settle a lawsuit that a developer had filed against the city last fall after being denied a special use permit that would’ve allowed a tractor-trailer storage facility to be built along the Interstate Service Road near Gilbreath Street and I-85/40.

No money was involved in settling the suit brought by Cone Commercial Real Estate, which had asked a superior court judge to review the council’s 3-2 vote in July 2023 to deny a special use permit to build the tractor-trailer parking facility with 122 spaces on a vacant, 5.5-acre lot for drivers to store or switch out their trailers.

Council members had gone behind closed doors with their attorney at least twice in recent months to discuss a possible settlement.

The terms of the agreement include seven conditions that will allow the construction of the tractor-trailer storage facility to proceed, including: construction of an eight-foot-high opaque fence at the perimeter of the property, along with angled barbed wire at the top of the fence; installation of a “lighting plan” prepared for the site by Duke Energy; construction of an automated gate and one security camera at the entrance; and signage will be clearly posted at the property, informing tenants that overnight stays are strictly prohibited, among several other provisions.

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[Story continues below layout for truck parking lot.]

In its petition for judicial review, Cone Commercial had pointed to two rulings by the state Court of Appeals, which established in 2002 and affirmed in 2013 that, “When an applicant for a conditional use permit produces competent, material, and substantial evidence of compliance with all ordinance requirements, the applicant” is entitled to the permit.

The developer later successfully argued that the city council had erred in “failing to make findings pertaining to whether the conditions specific to each use are not complied with” and to whether the use (a truck storage facility) “will materially endanger the public health or safety if located where proposed.” Cone Commercial also claims that the council failed to make findings showing that the proposed use would “substantially injure the value of adjoining property,” among other claims.

Noting that the process for issuing a conditional or special use permit is quasi-judicial, Cone Commercial contends that the city council failed to make required findings of fact “supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence appearing in the record.

The developer for the tractor-trailer storage facility contended in court filings that “there was no evidence offered during the quasi-judicial hearing in opposition to issuance of the Special Use Permit,” adding, that when denial is unsupported by material and substantial evidence, “such action must be set aside for it is arbitrary.”

Graham’s planning board had voted 3-2 early last year to recommend approval – but with site-specific conditions – by the city council, according to the petition for judicial review that was later filed in Alamance County civil superior court by Cone Commercial Real Estate Investments of Atlanta.

Prior to consideration by the city’s planning board, staff in the city’s planning department had determined that the application met the policies for Graham’s comprehensive plan (i.e., long-range land use plan) and other adopted plans, as Cone Commercial noted in its petition for judicial review.

However, when the application for the special use permit came before the council in July 2023, Graham mayor Jennifer Talley, along with mayor pro tem Ricky Hall and councilman Joey Parsons voted in favor of her motion to deny the permit; council members Bobby Chin and Bonnie Whitaker voted against the motion.

The city council voted 4-1 for the settlement, with Talley voting against and voicing once again her opinion that the developer had not, in fact, met all the criteria for a special use permit.

The site of the planned truck storage facility is bounded to the east by an office/warehouse owned by Rolls Enterprises of Chatham County, according to Alamance County tax records and the county’s GIS mapping system. The bus garage for the Alamance-Burlington school system is located on the west side of the proposed truck storage facility.

The property is currently zoned for Industrial Use, based on the court file. The 5.5-acre site is owned by

Martin Properties ACNC LLC and is situated at an unaddressed location on Interstate Service Road, according to Alamance County tax records, which list the latest assessed value for the land at $150,294.

See earlier coverage:

City sued over turning down truck parking lot (October 19, 2023):

City council turns down truck parking lot on 3-2 vote (July 13, 2023):

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