Mebane OKs 1M square foot warehouse project along Buckhorn Road

14 parcels on 128 acres would be developed into five warehouses with cumulative square footage of 980,200 square feet; three would front I-85/40; company also donates acreage for future Mebane fire station

Mebane’s city council unanimously approved rezoning for a project along I-85/40, Buckhorn Road, and West Ten Road that would add almost 1 million square feet of warehouse space in eastern Mebane (just across the county line in western Orange County).

Traffic at the Buckhorn Road exit in western Orange County could increase as a result of new projects being built in the area, both residential and industrial ones. The latest, approved this week by the city council, would allow almost 1 million square feet of warehouse space immediately adjacent to the exit.

The development company Al Neyer plans to build 980,200 square feet of warehouse space in five buildings on about 128 acres.

Meanwhile Al Neyer’s vice president of real estate development, Justin Parker, announced to Mebane’s city council that a major nationally-prominent tenant will occupy one of the company’s other Mebane projects. Thermo Fisher Scientific will occupy Al Neyer’s first, 375,000-square-foot building – clearing and grading for which has recently begun on the southeast corner of West Ten and Buckhorn Road. [See separate story on page 1.]

See announcement from Al Neyer about Thermo Fisher Scientific decision to locate in Mebane – on another Al Neyer site:

In addition to Al Neyer’s project, Medline appears to be nearing completion on a huge, 1.2 million square foot warehouse, also along West Ten Road.

Al Neyer’s land for its newest project – on 14 separate parcels – is bounded by I-85/40 near the Buckhorn Road exit on the southern side of the interchange, behind the Petro truck stop and stretching to West Ten Road on the northwest corner of the same intersection.

Three of the five buildings would be built facing the interstate, with 100,000, 75,000, and 330,000 square feet each. Two other buildings would be in the interior of the acreage, with 210,000 and 265,200 square feet, for a total of 980,200 square feet.

Entrances into the complex would be off Buckhorn Road, on a narrow private road named Rabbit Run, that would become a full-fledged city street, and also off West Ten Road, near its intersection with Bowman Road.

Justin Parker, Al Neyer’s vice president of real estate development, also told the council that the company is donating four acres from its 128-acre site for Mebane’s use for a future fire station.

The company’s plan is to convey four acres along Rabbit Run for a future fire station. The city heard a report earlier this year in which two potential fire substations are being recommended – one for the Trollingwood Road area on the western side of the city and another for Buckhorn Road on its easternmost edge.

During budget deliberations earlier this year, the council moved ahead with plans to consider a site at Trollingwood Road. City manager Chris Rollins said Wednesday that “at this point” that is still the priority among the two potential new firehouses, although he noted that the sudden growth in the Buckhorn Road and West Ten areas may prompt additional consideration about the priorities.

While Orange County had designated the West Ten Road corridor as an area for its future industrial expansion as far back as 1994 (known as the Buckhorn Economic Development District), most of that designation was merely theoretical until the past two years, when a spate of industrial projects has popped up, much to the irritation of local residents who had grown used to the quiet, rural flavor of the area.

Some of those neighbors sent in emails to the council, and last month to the planning board, lamenting the changes for their area and, in many cases, objecting to the newest project just as they had to the earlier one. No one was actually present to speak against the project during the public hearing held on the rezoning Monday night.

“It is truly heartbreaking to see the agricultural land around me turning into an industrial area,” wrote Fiona Johann, who lives in the area.

“Tractor trailers entering Buckhorn are already a concern,” she wrote, “and we have not even seen the effects of Medline and 6016 West Ten Tractor trailer traffic. . . If we also factor in the new housing developments that are creeping east on Bowman Road, we are in for a significant increase in traffic at the Buckhorn interchange.”

Johann also raised the specter of eminent domain being used to extract property from adjacent property owners in order to provide sufficient turn lanes, which Al Neyer is promising to build to meet DOT guidelines.

City manager Chris Rollins made clear that Mebane has not used, and does not intend to use, eminent domain.

Signs along West Ten Road (above) and Buckhorn Road (below) notified residents of the public hearing held Monday night, after which the Mebane city council unanimously voted to annex 128 acres and approve a rezoning request that will allow almost 1 million square feet of warehouse space.

Neyer’s traffic consultant, Josh Reinke, promised that all land needed for the turn lanes, both on Buckhorn Road and along West Ten Road, would come from property that is a part of the company’s project, not from other property owners.

Another resident, Andrea T. Riley, of Efland wrote, “The increased trailer traffic will bring increased traffic to the area and endanger the neighbors and commuters who pass through the area. Careful traffic planning will be needed to avert the increased danger of encounters with trailer trucks headed to and from this center.”

Earlier, to the planning board, other residents had expressed their concerns.  Patty O’Connor, 1011 Squires Road: “If approved as requested, it will turn these lovely Mebane semi-rural lands into a warehouse district. It would hardly be ‘positively charming,’” quoting Mebane’s much-publicized moniker, resulting instead “more like ‘positively alarming.’”

Complaining about the current Al Neyer site, as well as the large Medline distribution center across West Ten Road from her street, O’Connor said she currently experiences “incessant beeping as trucks and construction vehicles back up and banging of equipment, often well into the evening hours.”

“Sadly,” she said, “those sounds won’t disappear after the completion of construction. They will only be amplified as the hundreds of daily truck trips begin when both facilities are up and running.”
O’Connor lamented the disruption to the “relatively quiet, rural ambiance” she and other neighbors have enjoyed.

She said the proposed buffers – of 100 feet, rather than the city’s required level of 50 feet – will do little “to buffer the continual noise and fume of diesel engines and the relentless beeping of trucks docking,” which are sounds that she said can be heard for a quarter mile away.

Monday night, the company’s representative, Parker, emphasized those wider-than-required buffers as an attempt by the company to be good neighbors to surrounding property owners. The company will build 100-foot buffers (twice the required width) adjoining residential properties, 50-foot (the city’s required minimum) for the interstate and truck stop.

The city council was enthusiastic for the new project, voting 5-0 both to annex the 128-acre site into Mebane and, on a separate 5-0 vote, to approve the rezoning for the warehouse project.