Monday, May 20, 2024

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Graham planning board frowns on light industrial rezoning request along Cherry Lane


Graham’s planning board members expressed hesitation about whether a proposal to rezone approximately 40 acres along Cherry Lane near I-85/40 was appropriate for what is now a largely residential area.

The board ultimately split 3-2 in voting to deny the proposed rezoning requested by Jeffery and Jeanne Eichinger who own the properties sought to be rezoned. The city council will take up the request at its April meeting.

The Eichingers and their real estate agent, Glenn Patterson, said they did not have a specific industry, or buyer, in mind, but believed that the acreage was more suitable to industrial development.  The acreage is near the Hawfields-area industrial park, formally known as the North Carolina Commerce Park.

But members expressed concern over whether the site, on the far northern tip of Graham (before crossing the interstate highway) did not lend itself to easy access for tractor trailers that would either have to traverse the largely residential Cherry Lane to get to Jimmie Kerr Road’s access to the interstate, or go in the other direction (toward Mebane) and use the Trollingwood-Hawfields exit.

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The margin for the vote was narrowed by two absences from decision-making conducted by the Zoom teleconferencing platform.   Board chairman Dean Ward was absent.  Vice chairman Justin Moody initially presided, but expressed concern with a potential conflict of interest to vote on a matter near where he lived (“within walking distance”) and even closer to where his parents live.

While the board did not formally vote on allowing Moody to be recused, as is required by state law, he sat out the discussion and vote.

Presiding instead was Eric Crissman, the other most senior member of the planning board.  Even after expressing some reluctance about the project, Crissman ultimately supported it.  When planning board member Mike Benesch moved to recommend a denial of the rezoning, the vote was 3-2 in favor of Benesch’s motion; in addition to Benesch, the denial was supported by Bobby Chin and Tony Bailey.  Crissman and Nate Perry opposed the denial.

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