Wednesday, November 30, 2022

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Planning board OK with single-family, townhouse projects, but opposes 268 apts. in downtown

Mebane’s planning board heard three separate rezoning requests Monday night, readily endorsing two of them and equally unanimously recommending against the third, and largest, project – for 268 apartments in downtown off West Washington Street next to the rail line that cuts through the downtown.  The proposed project would also have 21,450 square feet of commercial space on the first floor of some of the buildings.

The planning board had few qualms about an 18-lot, single-family subdivision planned for 4677 Mrs. White Lane on the north side of the city.

The homes, to be dubbed Mill Run, are on the north side of the much larger established development of Mill Creek.  The new subdivision is to be built by Tanner Built Homes on about 10 acres beside a private, gravel road (Rutledge Lane), a few of whose residents voiced concerns to the planning board.

Another development, for 70 townhouses at Pear Tree Road and Parker Lane near the Tanger Outlet center, is an infill project that proposes the townhouses on two narrow lots sandwiched in between single-family homes in the area.

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But the biggest project of the night was a proposed conversion of most of a two-block area on the south side of the railroad tracks in downtown Mebane which for decades was anchored by the Kingsdown mattress factory.

The proposed project between West Washington and West Holt streets would span about 5.74 acres, but would be divided by South Third Street, which runs between the two.

Only one existing building, on the northeast corner of the 200 block of West Washington/West Holt streets – one of the older parts of the company, known as the “cotton building” – would be preserved, according to the developer’s plans.

[Story continues below photographs.]


TO BE PRESERVED: THE FORMER “COTTON BUILDING”

TO BE DEMOLISHED: THE FORMER KINGSDOWN OFFICE BUILDING AND MANUFACTURING FACILITY:

The former Kingsdown office building facing West Holt Street.
The side of the Kingsdown building facing West Washington Street and the railroad tracks.
Loading docks for the Kingsdown plant can be seen over the gate and fence from West Holt Street.

The main office and manufacturing building in the 100 block of West Washington/West Holt streets would be demolished.

[Story continues below proposed layout of the project.]

There would be 268 apartments – studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom – in five, four-story buildings.  The “cotton building” would serve as a clubhouse for an adjacent swimming pool; and a second story would provide “community space” for residents (of the property and otherwise) to use.

The developer pointed to a 2018 “downtown vision plan,” adopted by the city, that envisioned redevelopment of the property, although it was noted that the graphics from 2018 did not have as many buildings (six) as are now envisioned on the two blocks.  (The vision plan showed two buildings in the 200 block where four are now drawn.)

After listening to the developer as well as residents for and against the project, planning board member Kurt Pearson told his colleagues that the developer was “asking too much.”  There are too many waivers requested and for too substantial purposes, he said.  “There are waivers for practically everything.”

“Every developer wants to come to Mebane. Can’t we be a little picky? . . . We shouldn’t be giving up the farm.” – Mebane planning board member Kurt Pearson

Mebane planning board member Kurt Pearson

In particular, Pearson focused on the inadequate parking – 374 on-site parking spaces, whereas the city’s ordinance requires 422.

The developer’s written plans delineate 188 one-bedroom apartments and 80 with two bedrooms. [No studio apartments are listed, although the formula may be the same as with one-bedroom units.]  Using the city’s formula for determining parking spaces, that requires 422 parking spaces.

The retail component of the project requires another 75 spaces or a total of 497. However, most of the planning board discussion focused on the 422, rather than 497, required parking spaces.

The developer assured that additional, “overflow” parking would be available by agreements with the Mebane United Methodist Church for a parking lot across Holt Street from the project (which has 72 spaces, according to the developer) and the Mebane Public Library across South Second Street (which has 54 spaces, according to the developer).

[Editor’s Note: see separate story about status of the library’s “agreement” on extra parking.]

Pearson said the proposal was “too dense” and “too tall” and was “not in harmony with what’s around it.”

He questioned, as some speakers did, having four-story apartment buildings when the rest of downtown Mebane, including just across the railroad tracks along West Center Street, has buildings that are just two stories.

“Every developer wants to come to Mebane,” Pearson continued.  “Can’t we be a little picky,” he questioned, in deciding what we want.  “We shouldn’t be giving up the farm.”

Pearson’s motion to recommend denial of the rezoning as presented passed unanimously, 7-0.

Pearson left open the possibility that he might reconsider the concept if it was less dense, had fewer stories, and offered more on-site parking. “I don’t know if I’d like it with 25 percent fewer,” but he suggested he’d be more open than to the level requested.

All three agenda items from the July 18 planning board meeting will be on the city council’s agenda for August 1 at 6:00 p.m.


Read additional coverage of the planning board’s deliberations:

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