Mebane’s planning board gave a unanimous thumbs up, 9-0, Monday night to a developer’s plans for 900,000 square feet of warehouses in two buildings on about 74 acres along West Ten Road east of Mebane.
Planning board member Kurt Pearson praised the developer for his willingness to have accommodated some of the concerns expressed by neighbors during meetings before the submission of the final project.
Among the changes: 100 feet of landscape buffering around the project, rather than the 50 feet required by the city’s ordinance.
The project also proposes additional turn lanes into each of three entrances along West Ten Road, a prerequisite from the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Taylor Williams, one of the managers of Winston-Salem-based Williams Development Group, said his company traditionally builds both spec buildings, as well as “build to suit” tenants. At present, he does not have specific tenants lined up for the two warehouses, he told the planning board – one at 600,000 square feet and a smaller one at 300,000 square feet.
In an interview after the meeting, Williams noted that sometimes a spec building under construction becomes a “build to suit” situation in the middle of construction, as it has with various other of his company’s spec projects.
All of the project is in Orange County and is beyond Mebane’s current municipal limits and its extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ). However, the developer will seek annexation. The area is part of what Orange County has dubbed the Buckhorn Economic Development District and which that county has targeted for future industrial development and similar uses.
The development company will also pay for utility extensions from the city’s water and sewer lines which currently run near the Gravelly Hill Middle School on West Ten Road.
The project consists of two large warehouses: one, at 300,000 square feet, will be on 27.6 acres on the eastern part of the property; a second one, at 600,000 square feet, would be situated on 46.4 acres on the western portion of the property, closer to Mebane.
There will be 5-foot sidewalks along West Ten Road, as well as landscape buffering, with three entrances into the facilities, one each into the individual warehouses and another that will serve as a joint entrance to both locations.
Much of the property fronts near I-85/40.
Car and tractor trailer truck traffic
A traffic study conducted for the developer estimates 794 car trips daily “during peak hours” (defined as 7:00 – 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.) with 18 truck trips per day, at build-out, during those same “peak hours.”
Overall car trips are estimated to be 3,434 daily, based on a traffic study prepared for the company. Josh Reinke , of the Ramey Kemp company which conducted the study, emphasized that the estimates of overall traffic and of peak hour usage are based on comparably sized projects, in general, rather than any specific dimensions or aspects of the pending West Ten Road warehouses.
He also said that there is no overall estimate of truck traffic within a 24-hour period.
The proposed warehouses are the latest in a string of distribution centers that have located, or announced plans to build, in Alamance or western Orange counties over the past several years. Developers and the county’s economic development officials have pointed to the area’s central location adjacent to two major interstate highways, I-85 and I-40.
Critics continue to oppose industrial development
Critics have charged that the industries are spoiling the idyllic, rural setting to which they’ve become accustomed and in some cases selected precisely because of its bucolic appeal. One, Beth Bronson of 1221 Buckhorn Road in Mebane, was on hand in person, and she read a letter from another, Fiona Johann, also opposing the warehouse project, as bringing “yet another industrial site” to the heretofore rural community.
Bronson said that “the size of these buildings is unprecedented,” although a much larger facility for Medline Industries, at 1.2 million square feet, has been built within a mile of the proposed project, and another under construction nearby, for Thermo Fisher Scientific, has 375,000 square feet near the corner of West Road and Buckhorn roads.
Development company Al Neyer which is building the Thermo Fisher Scientific building has also begun work on an even larger warehouse development – 5 buildings with 980,000 square feet – between I-85/40 and Buckhorn and West Ten roads behind the Petro truck stop at Buckhorn Road.
Orange County officials have repeated countered neighborhood opposition by pointing to the fact that it had designated the area for long-term industrial economic development since the 1980s. But Bronson said that concept had appeared to be dormant until the past few years when a flurry of industrial projects have been announced.
Another nearby land owner, Craig Lloyd, who hopes to develop an athletic park across from the site of the two proposed warehouses, said he “didn’t have a problem” with the developer’s proposal. “We need the jobs,” he added.
The Buckhorn Economic Development District was anticipated to be targeted for light industrial, distribution, flex space, office, and service/retail uses being located adjacent to interstate and major arterial highways, according to Mebane’s planning staff summary.
In a brief interview with The Alamance News after the planning board meeting, Taylor Williams elaborated that his company would likely not begin construction until about 2023, and even then on one of the two warehouses, but probably not both simultaneously.
As to which, the 600K or 300K building, would be the priority, he said it would largely depend on the interest and market at the time construction is ready to begin.
Mebane’s city council is expected to take up the rezoning proposal for the two warehouses at its September 12 meeting.