City council scheduled to take up issue on March 8
Graham’s planning board spent almost three hours Tuesday night listening to a developer’s scaled-down version of a major warehouse project along Cherry Lane night and hearing neighbors’ continuing objections to it; the board unanimously concluded that the project was still not compatible with the Old Fields residential neighborhood across the street.
Scott Brown, the president of Intersect Development Group of Atlanta, and his attorney, Amanda Hodierne of Greensboro, outlined the concessions and changes the company had made in the layout of its proposed project on 87 acres at the corner of Cherry Lane and Governor Scott Farm Road on the outskirts of Graham.
The company’s original proposal, first considered in December, was for an 825,000 square foot warehouse building to be built on the acreage.
The newest version at this month’s meeting was for two buildings, with the total square footage reduced by more than one-quarter, down to 615,000 square feet.
[Story continues below layout graphic.]
However, one of the buildings (the smaller, 255,000 square feet) was still designed to allow entry and exit along Cherry Lane, which has been a focal point of the opposition from residents in the area, as well as from planning board chairman Dean Ward.
Ward expressed disappointment, telling the developer and his attorney that there had been a “consensus” among planning board members to keep all truck traffic off of Cherry Lane.
The smaller warehouse building would have 90 docks for tractor trailer trucks and 145 parking spaces for cars. The larger building (with 360,000 square feet) has 153 docks and spaces for trucks with 300 parking spaces for employees’ cars.
Since Cherry Lane is a state road, Graham’s options for trying to influence traffic flow are limited, but planning board members wanted to eliminate an entrance and exit onto Cherry
TRACTOR TRAILER TRUCKS ARE ALREADY A GROWING CONCERN FOR RESIDENTS ALONG CHERRY LANE:
Lane and require that the only entrance/exit to the lot, along Governor Scott Farm Road, would effectively force traffic toward Senator Ralph Scott Parkway, the state-built road that runs through the heart of the industrial park and away from Cherry Lane.
The revised plan puts an 8-foot high berm around the sides of the property facing Cherry Lane and Governor Scott Farm Road.
The berm – suggested first by neighbors during a conference call with the developer prior to the December planning board meeting and again by planning board members at that December meeting – is intended to screen the facility from the street and nearby residents, especially those in Old Fields, an upscale community directly across the street. Old Fields generally has houses ranging in price from the high $200,000’s to $400,000 and more.
The greater screening effort was done in the name of providing “visual mitigation,” Hodierne told the planning board and assembled audience members.
Security fencing would be added at the site, in order to address another previously-expressed concern about the possibility of nearby children getting onto the site. Company president Brown assured planning board member Mike Benesch that, if two different companies ultimately occupied the two buildings, security fencing would also be added to separate the parking lots between the parking lots of the two facilities.
Planning board members and neighbors have complained about how close the buildings are to the street, but the developer is also faced with the topographical challenge, as the parcel slopes toward the back and has a significant floodplain, where building is not allowed.
Attention also continued to focus on the 40-foot height of the proposed buildings, as well as the possibility that there would be air conditioning units on top. Planning board members pressed to have a parapet that would shield any view of the units.
“Everybody wants to be here,” Hodierne said of the current and future popularity of industrial development in Graham.
Mike Bishop is currently working to restore the old Scott family dairy barn on the front side of the Old Fields development. He also hired an attorney to represent him in opposing the warehouse plan.
A third large warehouse (of 400,000 square feet) is being planned by the same developer for another lot farther down Cherry Lane from the one that consumed most of the time Tuesday night.
Bishop’s attorney, Chad Sharkey of Holly Springs, emphasized that other warehouses in the Hawfields industrial park (Walmart, Lidl, and Amazon) “have buffers around them” that the proposal from Intersect does not.
Bishop said he had not wanted to have to hire an attorney “to defend me,” but said he was “fearful of what this [the proposed rezoning] will do to the barn and the neighborhood.”
Chad Huffine, a local engineer who lives in the area, was the lead speaker for opponents, as he had been at the December planning board meeting.
Huffine presented planning board members with an outline of key objections to the rezoning: its wear and tear on Cherry Lane, a road not built or intended for heavy truck traffic use (Huffine showed photos of the deteriorating pavement from current truck traffic); and the likelihood that real estate values would suffer as a consequence of the industrial development.
Huffine also contended that Old Fields and other Cherry Lane residents had not been adequately notified about the city’s decision several years ago, through its land use plan, to designate some of the Cherry Lane area for future industrial use.
Brent Henderly, one of the Old Fields residents, emphasized how much their subdivision was already having to pay for street damage done by tractor trailers; broken sewer grates; ruts in the land; and damaged street lights.
Trucks mistakenly enter the residential subdivision and do damage while attempting to turn around and exit, he said.
Local veterinarian Michelle Morris, who lives on Cherry Lane itself, noted that she did not even have the support of a subdivision, as many other neighbors who spoke did. “My driveway is across from the [second proposed site].”
She and several other speakers took aim at the developer as an out-of-town opportunist. “They don’t live here,” Morris said, “They’re taking money from Graham.”
“Please save our neighborhood,” implored Wendy Garmon.
Joe Moody talked about his desire to find a house and lot on Cherry Lane, which he was ultimately able to do. But now? “No one wants to live with 18-wheelers rattling by my house.” He urged planning board members to “get all the truck traffic off of Cherry Lane.”
After about a dozen residents, the developer and his attorney, and the barn entrepreneur and his attorney finished speaking, planning board members began to ruminate on how to address the dilemma.
“This is a challenging one,” summarized planning board member Jerome Bias.
Planning board member Eric Crissman drew a bead on the fact that a portion of the corner lot (almost 38 acres) is already zoned for industrial use. Someone could come in and put up a warehouse or other industrial building that would not require the review or approval of the planning board or city council, Crissman stressed. “That’s the predicament we’re in,” he said.
“There’s no condition on what you could build there,” Crissman noted, adding, “So what can we do to protect the residents who live on Cherry Lane?”
Board members appeared to be coalescing around additional conditions for the rezoning that should be recommended to the city council if they were to approve the request: a 300-foot setback from the road; a larger, 20-foot berm (with 15-foot trees); no entrance or exit along Cherry Lane; and required and limited entry and exit along Governor Scott Farm Road (left turn in, right turn out), which would keep trucks off of Cherry Lane.
Just as board members appeared to be moving in the direction of cobbling together a motion to include those parameters, Hodierne, who had earlier encouraged the board to define its requests, withdrew that position and urged an up-or-down vote on the developer’s request as presented.
The planning board obliged, voting unanimously, 5-0, to recommend that the city council deny the developer’s rezoning request.
Without discussion, the board also adopted a similar motion to recommend against the developer’s other request, for farther up Cherry Lane, for a 400,000-square-foot warehouse on a 38-acre tract.
The planning board’s recommendations, in this and most other rezoning issues, are advisory. The city council will make the final decision; the Cherry Lane rezoning requests are on the agenda for the council’s next meeting, on March 8.
Read additional coverage of earlier developments and deliberations:
Huge warehouse project proposed for Graham along Cherry Lane, in new area of Hawfields industrial park (Dec. 16, 2021): https://alamancenews.com/huge-warehouse-project-proposed-for-graham-along-cherry-lane-in-new-area-of-hawfields-industrial-park/
Proposed warehouses for Cherry Lane postponed until January (Dec. 23, 2021): https://alamancenews.com/breaking-overnight-proposed-warehouses-for-cherry-lane-postponed-until-january/
Rezoning, annexation projects along Cherry Lane on Graham side of Hawfields-area industrial park postponed (January 8, 2022): https://alamancenews.com/update-on-warehouse-projects-along-cherry-lane-on-graham-side-of-hawfields-area-industrial-park/