Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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Mebane OKs Orange County ABC store replacement  

One resident says the proposed design is “ugly,” doesn’t fit in with Mebane’s style, describes it as a “prison-looking building”

Mebane’s city council unanimously approved a request Monday night from the Orange County ABC Board to rezone the location of its existing ABC store at 7713 US 70 in order to build a new store.

The rezoning from B3 to B2 also encompasses an additional lot behind the existing ABC store, which the ABC Board has bought in order to have sufficient room to build a replacement store.

The plans, as outlined to the city’s planning board earlier last month and to the city council Monday night, will be to build a new store behind the current one. A metal building behind the store (on the lot purchased by the ABC Board) will be torn down, according to plans outlined to the planning board and council members.

Construction of the new building will take place while the existing building continues to serve customers.

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George Retschle of Ballentine Associates in Chapel Hill told the planning board that the ABC Board wants to replace its “aging building with something very nice that will better serve its customer base.”

Retschle explained that the beverage control board “will be leaving the existing store operational while we build a new store behind it.”

Once the construction is complete, the current store will be torn down, with a parking lot in front of the new store to be put in its place.  The current store has 27 parking spaces; the new store will have 29.

The lot will have room for a 5-foot concrete sidewalk along US 70, plus saving room for a 14-foot area that will include sufficient room for a future 10-foot-wide multi-use path.

While the new store will have the same architect as a recently-completed store in Hillsborough, it will not be the same style.

One resident, Mary McFarland, voiced her view on the style of the proposed new structure, calling it “ugly.”  McFarland said the gray structure, which was unlike any color in the city, made it appear as a “prison-looking building.”

Council members were waylaid for part of the discussion over the issue of sewer service to the store, which was described as being by an on-site septic system.  Councilman Tim Bradley wondered why the ABC store wouldn’t hook up to city-owned lines in the area.

Much discussion and conflicting information was offered subsequently on whether the sewer line in the area was city-owned or privately-owned.  Retschle made clear the preference would be to be able to hook on to city-owned lines.

Bradley, the council’s most senior member with over 20 years’ service, said he was almost certain that when a line was run along US 70, it would become the city’s.  He said it was “ridiculous” not to have city-owned water and sewer lines serving the ABC store.

City manager Chris Rollins gave periodic updates on the issue during the discussion, noting that he was texting with various other city employees and the city’s engineer.  After the meeting, he acknowledged in an interview that the city officials would have to research the history to which Bradley had referred and determine if, perhaps, the store could, in fact, hook on to sewer lines, if, in fact, they were city-owned.


Neighboring property owners share concerns

The council also heard from two neighboring property owners with their concerns about the new ABC building.

Barbara Phillips, who lives in the Ashbury subdivision directly behind the metal building that will be demolished to make way for the new building, expressed concerns over the fact that removal of the building (which she described as both “ugly” and likely “rat infested”) would simultaneously eliminate a “noise barrier” for her having to hear traffic from U.S. 70.  It was explained that a 20-foot opaque vegetative buffer would shield her home from the highway, as well as the taller structure of the new building would also diffuse any noise issues.

Orange County’s current ABC store at 7713 US 70. The current store will remain in operation while a new one is built behind it. When the new facility is complete, the current one will be torn down to make way for more parking.

This metal building at the back of the lot now owned by the Orange County ABC Board will be torn down to allow the new store to be constructed toward the back of the lot. While one neighbor was glad to be rid of the “ugly” metal building, she expressed concerns about whether its absence would expose her to the noise from U.S. 70.Phillips also expressed concerns about floodlights shining into her home.  It was explained that major, tractor-trailer deliveries to the store would likely be only quarterly and during business hours not at night. Development director Cy Stober also noted that the city’s requirements against “bleed over lighting” should prevent the kind of invasive lighting Phillips said she feared.

Another adjacent owner, Gary Tufts, expressed concerns about the lack of a total buffer along the western side of the store adjacent to his property.  He said he frequently has cars destined for the ABC store that either turn around on his property, or simply park on his gravel lot and walk across the short distance to the store.

He asked for consideration of a fence.  Ultimately, the ABC representative, Angela Willoughby, agreed to the stipulation of a 4-foot-high, black chain link fence running along the property line from the right-of-way at the front to the property line in the back.

After about a hour of discussion on the specifics of the proposal, the sewer line, and the neighbors’ concerns, the council unanimously approved the rezoning request, with the fence condition added, 5-0.

Read earlier Alamance News coverage about the planning board’s discussion about the ABC Board request:

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