Friday, June 14, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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Mebane wants thick buffers to prevent backsides of subdivisions from being visible from city streets


Mebane’s city council doesn’t want the backs of residential projects to face main thoroughfares, and they quizzed one developer repeatedly this week about how his company will ensure that there will be sufficient greenery to shield the back of the planned townhouse development – at the corner of North First Street and Stagecoach Road – from traffic passing by that corner.

Mayor pro tem Tim Bradley, presiding in the absence of mayor Ed Hooks, cited another development now under construction, by a different Greensboro builder, as an example of what the city doesn’t want to see proliferate.

Bradley pointed to the back of several townhouses being built by Keystone Homes along South Fifth Street at Bonanza Lane face South Fifth Street, considered one of the city’s premier entry streets into the downtown.

Bradley wanted to ensure that the planned greenery buffer at the new development would be thick enough to conceal the backs of the three townhouses that would be at the rear of the new development, entitled Potter’s Mill.

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The proposal by Greensboro developer and builder Windsor Homes would have 42 patio-style houses (19 in pairs and four individual homes) on about 20 acres at the corner of Stagecoach Road and North First Street.

David Michaels, who is with Land Acquisition and Development Services, a subsidiary of Windsor Homes which has built many developments in the Triad, including several in Mebane, outlined the project to the city council, as he had last month to the city’s planning board.

Michaels estimated for the planning board that the townhouses would have about 2,000 square feet and probably sell in the “upper $300’s to over $400,000.”

A fenced dog park is one of the amenities on the site.

Much of the discussion focused on how much of the currently “heavily forested” acreage would be cleared.

Bradley began his inquiry and pressed it to ensure that there would be a wide buffer along the portion of the townhouse development that would back onto Stagecoach Road.

Bradley’s focus on adequate screening was echoed by councilmen Jonathan White and Sean Ewing, who also questioned how wide the buffer would be and how well the townhouses would be concealed from the roadway.

Bradley said that the NC 119 example, now under construction, is “not [visually] pleasing.”

He later specified the site that concerns him is along NC 119 being built by Keystone Homes (see photo on page 1).

Bradley also suggested that it would be “prudent” to have adequate landscape buffering for the homeowners’ benefit.

After much questioning about the issue, Michaels tentatively offered to provide additional buffering “to enhance the minimum requirements” specified in the city’s ordinances.

[Story continues below layout of proposed development (with buffers shown in green).]

A few residents reiterated concerns that the council has heard before on similar subdivisions: preserving as much of the treescape as possible; preventing water runoff and flooding; and whether schools could handle the influx of new residents.

Michaels described the planned patio homes as catering to an older demographic although he added that there would be no prohibition on younger owners or families.

The townhouses are a “unique style,” with first floor living space, although there are some with second floors, as well, Michaels said.

An illustration of the type patio homes Windsor envisions for the 42-home subdivision at the corner of First Street and Stagecoach Road.

Mebane city officials confirmed that the Alamance-Burlington school officials do not typically attend meetings of the technical review committee (TRC), although Orange County school officials do attend when the subdivisions are across the county line in their jurisdiction.

Council members pressed about whether ABSS is aware of the meetings, which assistant city manager Preston Mitchell assured them they were. They just don’t attend, he told council members.

After more than an hour of both explanation and questioning, the council ultimately voted unanimously to approve the rezoning.

Larger townhouse project approved with less controversy
In less than half the time spent on the 42-home project, the council also unanimously approved a 150-townhouse project down and across the street from the first.

Dubbed North First Street Townhouses, landscape engineer Tony Tate and developer Jay Colvin of DRB Group (formerly Dan Ryan Builders) laid out their vision for the townhouse development on about 30 acres adjacent to the city’s Cates Farm Park.

The developer’s plans also envision leaving an undisturbed buffer next to an adjacent apartment complex.

[Story continues below rendering of townhouses and layout of proposed 150-home townhouse subdivision.]

Margaret Cole and Mary McFarland both expressed concerns about density, describing the project as “too dense” and “way too dense,” respectively. “To me, this is crowded,” added McFarland.

Margaret Cole
Mary McFarland

Colvin noted that likely price points for the townhouses would be in the $300,000 to $325,000 range, depending on market conditions at the time they are for sale.

Colvin also noted that there was “not a dominant purchase profile” envisioned for development. All bedrooms would be upstairs, but he suggested the townhouses with minimal outside space would be popular with all age groups. He referred to the development as a “lifestyle product” more than one targeting any particular demographic.

Colvin, when pressed on when certain amenities – including a $114,000 payment to the city in lieu of providing additional recreational space – were to be provided, agreed to the halfway mark, when the 75th building permit is approved.
The project was approved unanimously, 5-0.


Other agenda items:

Cell tower near interstate highway
In other action, the council agreed, also 5-0, for rezoning for a cell tower off I-85/40 and Trollingwood-Hawfields Road.

In response to safety concerns about the tower’s close proximity to the interstate (50 feet to the highway right-of-way), attorney Marc Tucker repeated the phrase “in the unlikely event of a failure” several times to assure that the tower would collapse on itself and into the 100′ x 100′ foot enclosure – without disrupting interstate travel or adjacent property owners.

See coverage of planning board’s consideration of the cell tower:

Property owner Harry Isley pressed, as he had at the planning board meeting last month, to consider property across the interstate in a more industrially-zoned area. Isley did not note this week, as he had previously, that he and his brother have property in that area that they would have wanted AT&T to consider for its cell tower.


Welded wire fences; plus light manufacturing vs. heavy manufacturing
The council also decided to formalize the allowance for framed welded wire fencing behind homes; the city’s former development director, Cy Stober, had proposed prohibiting the type of fence, but council members were willing to allow it in rear and side yards.

The council also decided to change its designation for light and heavy industrial areas. Stober had previously pointed out that some nearby cities consider light manufacturing as M1 and heavy as M2, but Mebane has used the reverse designation: M1 for heave and M2 for light.

Council member Montrena Hadley suggested that there was no real problem with the existing nomenclature, but her colleagues acknowledged possible confusion.

They ultimately decided to avoid the numbering system altogether, opting instead for the classifications of LM (for light manufacturing) and HM (for heavy).

Hadley voted against the change, which passed nonetheless, 4-1.


Volunteers get higher pay for fire calls
The council also voted to increase the rates paid for fire calls for the city’s volunteer firemen – raising the rate from $2.00 to $4.00 for EMT calls and from $8.00 to $10.00 for fire calls.

Members allowed mayor pro tem Bradley to be recused inasmuch as he is a volunteer assistant fire chief; at Bradley’s recommendation, the next most senior councilman, Ewing, was designated to preside during what turned out to be a very brief consideration of the changes, which were adopted 4-0.

City manager Chris Rollins noted that, while the increases had been figured into the city’s 2022-2023 budget that had been adopted last month, he had neglected to delineate the increases in the narrative accompanying the budget figures.

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