Thursday, May 23, 2024

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Planning board to consider 330 new apts. off University Drive; Sheetz to be razed, rebuilt

The Sheetz gas station chain is apparently ready to reset the figurative pumps at the Alamance Road intersection where it first set up shop some 15 years ago.

This coming Monday, representatives of the Pennsylvania-based retailer are scheduled to come before Burlington’s planning and zoning commission to present a rezoning request that, if approved, would allow the company to completely raze and rebuild its store at 2628 Alamance Road.

According to documents that accompany the planning com-mission’s agenda, the company’s representatives have requested a limited use form of general business zoning to facilitate this dramatic makeover.

Under this proposed designation, the 1.62-acre parcel could be put to a short list of commercial uses. These uses comprise a convenience store with gas sales, a car wash or auto detailing business, a restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating, and a restaurant with drive-thru or drive-up service.

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The company’s requested designation would supplant the existing “conditional” zoning that Burlington’s city council originally applied to the property in March of 2008. This zoning designation – a throwback to the city’s previous development rules – comes with a strict list of conditions that prohibit any substantive changes to the orientation or layout of the existing structures.

Included in the planning commission’s agenda packet is a memo from the city’s planning staff that explains why the property owner wants to dispense with the site’s current zoning after 16 years.

“The applicant is requesting a rezoning,” the memo contends, “for the purpose of constructing a new Sheetz convenience store with a drive-thru and other associated site improvements.”

The staff memo went on to endorse the company’s request as it would “allow the same uses that currently occur on the property.”

In an interview with The Alamance News, Burlington’s planning director Jamie Lawson conceded that the company’s request suggests that the existing store would ultimately be bulldozed if the new zoning is accepted by Burlington’s city council. A similar pattern has already occurred in Mebane, where Sheetz demolished a store built in 2005 – only to resurrect it in modified form this past fall.

Lawson acknowledged that it’s unclear how closely the new store on Alamance Road would resemble the new one in Mebane – as the footprint and specs of the new Burlington store aren’t part of the company’s rezoning request.


Gang way for ‘planned development’

Also on the planning commission’s agenda is an item is so-called “planned development,” whose detailed particulars are reminiscent of the intricate “conditional zoning” requests that were once de rigueur under Burlington’s old development rules.

A new zoning category introduced under Burlington’s unified development ordinance in 2019, the “planned development” designation is intended for complex subdivisions that don’t fit neatly into the city’s development rules. The zoning applications for such projects are generally submitted the city’s review along with detailed site plans, design and landscaping standards, and development conditions that describe both how the project would deviate, and improve on, the prevailing standards.

In this case, a development firm called GHS Properties has seized on this designation to frame its plans for a large apartment complex on 25.9 acres at the intersection of Williams Mill and Rural Retreat roads – not far from the juncture with University Drive.

Dubbed “Sycamore at Burlington,” this proposed development would consist of 330 dwelling units distributed among six, four-story buildings. The developer anticipates a breakdown of 138 one-bedroom apartments and 192 with two bedrooms apiece.

In addition to the dwellings themselves, the developer’s plans call for a wide range of amenities. These features include a clubhouse and pool, several gazebos, sidewalks, bike racks, pickleball courts, facilities for shuffleboard and bocce ball, and a “neighborhood park” complete with a putting green. The plans also propose parking for 567 vehicles – 50 of which would be housed in garages scattered across the development. This figure is apparently 189 more than the city’s unified development ordinance demands.

As part of its rezoning request, the project’s developer has proposed 15.15 acres of open space – more than 2 acres in excess of the city’s mandated minimum. The developer also proposes to exceed the city’s requirements for architectural flourishes such as porches, awnings, and pilasters, and it pledges to construct a 10-foot “multi-use path” along Rural Retreat Road that will ultimately feed into a sidewalk along University Drive.

The city’s planning staff have given their imprimatur to this rezoning request in light of their consistency with other development in that part of the city.

The…zoning district is consistent with the Land Use Plan, which calls for this area to be suburban residential,” the planning staff adds in a memo that accompanies the developer’s request. “The development meets the purpose and intent of the Planned Development district goals and objectives through providing a high-quality and enhanced form of development.”

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