Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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Orange County commissioners rejected similar proposal in 2023

The charter high school now being proposed for Mebane, which is termed in the preliminary site plan that has been filed with the city as “Western Triangle High School,” appears to be part of a similar project that Orange County’s commissioners had rejected in June 2023.

The Orange County proposal had actually called for the construction of two charter schools – Western Triangle High School, serving students in grades nine through 12, and a K-8 charter school – to be built on 85 acres of vacant land at the intersection of U.S. 70A and Lawrence Road, near Triangle Sportsplex and just outside Hillsborough’s city limits.

Hillsborough-based Summit Engineering and Design Services developed the site plans for both the earlier iteration and the current plan that has been filed with the city of Mebane.

The developer for the earlier project had sought conditional rezoning for the property, from its current designation as rural residential, according to a summary that Orange County staff had prepared for the commissioners’ discussion on June 6, 2023 that reportedly drew a crowd of more than 100 people, evenly split between supporters and opponents.

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Orange County’s planning board had voted 7-3 in early May 2023 to recommend denial of a proposed zoning atlas amendment (i.e. rezoning) by the commissioners, based on a summary that the county’s planning department prepared for commissioners’ subsequent discussion on June 6 of last year.

Orange County’s commissioners ultimately voted 6-0 to deny rezoning for the project, which had also called for construction of baseball fields, tennis and pickleball courts, and a skate park, The (Raleigh) News & Observer reported at the time.  (Orange County commissioner Earl McKee was excused from voting because he works for Summit Engineering and Design.)

In voting to deny rezoning, Orange County’s commissioners cited a lack of need for new schools – based on a county enrollment report showing that another new school wouldn’t be needed for 10 years – as well as a lack of consistency with the existing rural character of the area and the county’s vision for a “walkable community” with public transportation, The N&O reported at the time.

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