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Planning board OKs rezoning request for LabCorp’s new hangar at airport

Burlington’s planning and zoning commission has given its clearance to a new corporate hangar at the Burlington Alamance Regional Airport that’s intended to serve one of the community’s most prominent companies.

During their latest monthly meeting on Monday, the commission’s members gave their unanimous nod to a rezoning request that will allow the publicly-owned airport to develop this new hanger at 3536 Alamance Road on behalf of the Laboratory Corporation of America.

The commission ultimately agreed to recommend this request to Burlington’s city council at the behest of Dan Danieley, the executive director of the Burlington-Alamance Airport Authority – a semi-independent government agency that oversees this air transit hub on Burlington’s southern periphery.

Dan Danieley, executive director of the Burlington-Alamance Airport Authority

Danieley informed the commission’s members that the airport authority’s request is meant to address a zoning discrepancy that arose when he and his colleagues acquired some additional land to make room for LabCorp’s new hangar on the grounds of the airport.

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“We’ve recently purchased a piece of property that is a very important part of this project,” he went on to elaborate, “and we want to rezone it so we can move forward.

“This is a really big project for us,” Danieley added. “We want to build a hangar big enough to house a jet bigger than what’s ever been housed there.”

At 56,600 square feet, the proposed structure will be substantially larger than LabCorp’s existing quarters at the Burlington-Alamance Airport. According to materials that were presented to the city’s planning commission, the new hangar will contain 16,000 square feet of office space in addition to a more capacious storage area for aircraft. It also will be accompanied by 61 parking spaces, a staging area for aircraft, and a fence to keep local wildlife out of the facility.

Under an agreement that LabCorp has brokered with Danieley’s agency, the airport authority will retain ownership of this facility, which it has promised to lease to the Burlington-based health services firm. The cost of the hangar’s construction will be subsidized, in part, by the city of Burlington – thanks to an incentives deal that the city council approved earlier this year.

As part of this deal, the council has pledged to provide $2 million for the hangar’s site preparations. It has also agreed to forgive another $200,000 in permitting and utility fees that the project would otherwise incur from the city. In return for these subsidies, Burlington’s leaders are looking forward to a bonanza in property tax payments on the new hangar and the planes it will house – which are expected to have a cumulative tax value of about $71 million.

The city’s planning commission ultimately voted 6-to-0 to recommend the authority’s rezoning request to Burlington’s city council, which is expected to hear the proposal on September 5.


Apts. on Burch Bridge Road

In addition to the airport authority’s request, the city’s planning commission has accepted another zoning change that could allow a small set of apartments to go up on land north of Burlington’s municipal limits that’s still within the city’s planning jurisdiction.

This particular proposal was presented to the commission by Chad Huffine, a civil engineer who approached the appointed advisory board on behalf of the family of Franklin E. Tootle. Huffine told the commission that his clients are seeking high density residential zoning in order to redevelop a 1.73-acre tract that Tootle owns at 2165 Burch Bridge Road.

Chad Huffine

“The family wants to build an apartment building,” Huffine went on to explain, “and they want to do it as a family effort.”

The commission voted 6-to-0 to recommend the request to Burlington’s city council.


What’s cooking at La Fiesta?

The planning commission has also given a five star review to a proposal that would allow La Fiesta Mexican restaurant to build a new, more capacious eatery in place of its current premises at 1824 South Church Street.

During the commission’s meeting on Monday, Matt Lowder presented a rezoning request that would enable La Fiesta’s owner, the Guerrero Restaurant Group, to expand the business from its current location at 1824 South Church Street to include an adjacent parcel at 1715 Sykes Street.

Matt Lowder

Lowder said the Guerrero Restaurant Group, which presently owns both lots, wants to merge the two parcels in order to replace La Fiesta’s current digs with a larger, more spacious eatery.

“Our intent is to combine the two parcels as one parcel to redevelop the restaurant,” Lowder explained. “It’s a thriving business. They just want to expand, and this is the best way to do that.”

Lowder went on to note that, once this project is finished, the new La Fiesta will boast outdoor seating and a more navigable entrance off of South Church Street.

Before the planning commission voted on La Fiesta’s request, its members heard an objection from Kay Hunkins, who owns some rental property across Sykes Street from the project’s proposed site.

Kay Hunkins

Hunkins complained that she didn’t have time to evaluate the restaurant’s proposal because she had only received the city’s notification about the commission’s meeting on Thursday.

“I have not had time to do my due diligence on this,” she added, “and I need time to do that.”

Hunkins asked the commission to postpone its vote on La Fiesta’s submission to give her the additional time she requested. The commission’s members put this idea to a vote, although they deadlocked on whether to put off their decision on La Fiesta’s proposal for another month.

The group then took up a motion to endorse the restaurant’s request, which passed by margin of 6-to-0. The commission’s members nevertheless urged Lowder to meet with Hunkins before the request goes before Burlington’s city council to make sure she understands what the Guerrero Group has in store for the property. Lowder apparently took the commission’s suggestion to heart and approached the skeptical neighbor with one of the restaurant’s representatives immediately after the meeting.

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