Major proposed western Orange County industrial site just across county line from new Mebane projects

A preliminary site plan has been filed to develop a new industrial park on a swath of farmland 4.4 miles east of the Alamance County line, near the outskirts of Mebane and the western edge of Orange County.

The 100-plus acres of rolling pastureland where Efland Industrial Park would be built is located adjacent to I-40/85 along a sparsely-populated rural road that’s nonetheless well-traveled by virtue of its proximity to the interstate.

The site for the proposed industrial park is across the road from Missy’s Grill and an automotive repair shop at 331 Mount Willing Road (off exit 160), which appears to have permanently closed.

Located at 304 Mount Willing Road in Efland, the property was previously targeted for Buc-ee’s, a Texas-based travel center that withdrew its application for conditional zoning earlier this year.


Mount Willing in Orange County, as opposed to Mount Willen in Alamance County
Despite their similarly-sounding names, Mount Willing Road in Orange County is not the same as Mount Willen Road, which is nearby in eastern Alamance County, between South Jim Minor Road in Haw River and Mebane Oaks Road. The two roads have different state road numbers, according to the state Department of Transportation (NCDOT).

“They are very different roadways,” said Chuck Edwards, who is the engineer for the N.C. DOT division that includes Alamance and Orange counties, as well as three other counties in the Piedmont-Triad region.

Mount Willing Road runs all the way from U.S. 70 to Buckhorn Road; Mount Willen Road runs from Hwy. 54 to Mebane Oaks Road, he elaborated in an interview with The Alamance News. “But those roads are close, as the crow flies,” the division engineer added.

The site of the proposed Efland Industrial Park is situated between the 160 and 161 interchanges on the north side I-40/85, Edwards confirmed for the newspaper.
The site of the proposed industrial park is currently zoned for Office, Research, and Manufacturing (ORM) uses and is located within a major transportation corridor, according to Orange County’s planning department.

The preliminary site plan for Efland Industrial Park calls for the construction of two buildings that would have a total of 886,240 square feet, according to documents the developer filed with Orange County’s planning department. Approximately 18 acres would be used for parking; and 4.5 acres of the site would be used for driveway/access roads. Forty acres would remain undisturbed as “undeveloped/natural areas” and open space for stormwater control, according to the preliminary site plan for the industrial park.

The Orange County tax department records list the latest appraised value for the site of the proposed industrial park at $574,418. The property includes two parcels, currently owned by S.L. Efland Heirs, LLC, according to Orange County’s Register of Deeds.

Area designated for commercial and industrial development decades earlier
The site of the proposed industrial park is located within what Orange County officials have designated as a “Commercial-Industrial Transition Activity Node” (CITAN), meaning it’s suited for commercial, manufacturing, and industrial development, based on a recent report from Orange County’s planning department.

“The project does not require approval” by Orange County’s board of commissioners or by an advisory board, as long as the use is permitted and conforms to established development standards, Orange County’s planning department said earlier this fall.

The proposed site for the industrial park is located within the “west Efland” CITAN, one of several such areas, spanning a total of 1,394 acres, that Orange County officials designated several years ago as best-suited for retail, commercial, manufacturing, and other industrial uses, according to the county’s economic development department.

The property along Mount Willing Road is also near the Buckhorn Economic Development District (EDD). In 1981, Orange County established three EDDs, including the Buckhorn EDD, which encompasses 900 acres of developable land in the western portion of Orange County, off exit 157 along I-85/40, according to Orange County’s economic development department.

Orange County officials established the EDDs in hopes of balancing the tax base – with a goal of a 70/30 split in residential versus nonresidential tax revenue – and attracting good-paying jobs for residents, while also generating other revenue, such as state and local tax revenue, that would enable the county to fund school construction, as well as social and workforce development programs, according to the economic development department.

Orange County’s two other EDDs include: the 530-acre Eno EDD in the eastern part of the county, adjacent to the Durham County line; and the 637-acre Hillsborough EDD, which includes the Waterstone Business Park, currently home to the Hillsborough campus for UNC Hospitals and a satellite location for Durham Technical Community College are located.

Though it appears unlikely the proposed Efland Industrial Park will require approval by Orange County’s commissioners, based on the preliminary site plan, it still has to undergo a lengthy internal review by the county’s planning department, DOT, and local utility providers. That review began earlier this fall and remains in progress.

DOT is still in the process of reviewing the traffic study, formally known as a “Traffic Impact Analysis” (TIA) that Kimley-Horn conducted for the developer, Edwards, the DOT division engineer, said last week.


Developer’s other N.C. projects include a commerce park and mixed-use building in Apex
The developer for the Efland Industrial Park, Oppidan, describes itself as a national property development firm, which is headquartered in Minnesota and has offices in North Carolina and California.

Oppidan has built more than 500 residential and commercial projects in the U.S., including: 10 Duluth Trading Company stores in nine states, with more locations in development; eight Gander Outdoors stores in five states; six industrial/commerce parks in three states, to include the Apex Commerce Park in Wake County; and eight mixed-use developments, with one called “Highline” in Apex; and numerous other residential and/or commercial projects, according to Oppidan.

The developer describes “Highline” as a 32,000-square foot, three story mixed-use building in downtown Apex. Construction of the building began in July of this year and is scheduled for completion in early 2022, will have retail space on the ground floor; office space; and a private balcony on the third level. Oppidan is also planning to relocate its southeast headquarters into the Highline building, according to the company.

An architectural rendering of Oppidan’s planned Apex project.

Neither the developer nor Orange County officials have identified potential tenants for the Efland Industrial Park.

Orange County’s planning department lists the potential uses as: office; research/development; warehouses; and/or light industrial, according to a report that the department issued after the developer filed its preliminary site plan for the industrial park.

Orange County opponents had opposed Buc-ee’s travel center; they now find different reasons to oppose industrial development at the same site: