Monday, February 26, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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THE PUBLIC ASKS: Did industrial park envision retail, like Buc-ee’s?

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QUESTION: Is Mebane’s approval of a new Buc-ee’s travel center consistent with an interjurisdiction agreement with Alamance County and Graham to develop a corporate park in the Hawfields community?

ANSWER: It may’ve seemed like the city of Mebane opened the gates to entirely new kind of animal when it agreed to let the Buc-ee’s retail chain into a corporate park that has, so far, been the exclusive domain of warehouses, shipping hubs, and manufacturing plants.

But this Texas-based company, with its gargantuan fuel plazas and its iconic spokes-beaver, is apparently not quite the invasive species that it might appear to be within its prospective new home in Alamance County.

Officially known as the North Carolina Commerce Park, the corporate development where Buc-ee’s plans to ensconce itself was originally launched as a three-way venture by Mebane, Graham, and Alamance County in order to attract a large distribution center that Walmart had in the offing in 2012.

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In order to reel in a distribution center for the nation’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer, the three local governments decided to develop a suitable home for this project within the agrarian Hawfields community that lay between the municipal limits of Mebane and Graham.

To this end, the trio carved out a so-called “economic development zone” on some 1,200 acres between Trollingwood-Hawfields Road, Cherry Lane,  Kimrey Road, and Governor Scott Farm Road. The three partners went on to obtain commitments from the property owners within this largely agricultural area. In the meantime, they hammered out a tripartite agreement to provide roads and utilities for the new corporate development – and divide up the property tax revenue from any businesses that the park may attract.

This triple entente scored its first victory in December of 2012 when Walmart formally announced that it would build its new distribution center within the development. Over the coming years, this warehousing complex would be joined by other distribution centers for Amazon, UPS, and the German grocery chain Lidl. The new park has also drawn a modicum of manufacturing thanks to the arrival of first Prescient (and manufacturer of grids for multi-story apartments) and its successor, Revere; also announced, but not yet in production, is a facility for Greensboro-based Sunlight Batteries.

It may appear that this collage of decidedly industrial facilities has left little room for a purely retail endeavor inside the economic development zone. But that didn’t stop Buc-ee’s from choosing this publicly-sponsored corporate park for its first “travel center” in North Carolina.

Earlier this month, Mebane’s town council unanimous signed off on the company’s plans for this project, which envision a 75,440-square-foot convenience store, 120 fuel pumps, 24 electric vehicle charging stations, and 652 parking spaces on roughly 32 acres off of Trollingwood-Hawfields Road. Moreover, the council appears to have stuck to the letter of the three-way agreement when it authorized this sprawling bazaar within the bounds of the economic development zone.

Under the “city-county compact” that Mebane, Graham, and Alamance County struck in May of 2013, the three local governments pledge to work together to attract both commercial and industrial development to the new corporate park. Although the compact doesn’t technically forbid other kinds of development, it makes it clear that any interjurisdictional collaboration applies “only to commercial and industrial developments which take place within the zone.”

“Residential developments shall not be subject to any of the terms,” the agreement goes on to stipulate. “Commercial and industrial development shall be included notwithstanding the existence or nonexistence of economic incentives.”

This final provision is particularly key in the case of Buc-ee’s proposed travel center, which hasn’t asked for or received any financial subsidies from Mebane, Graham, or Alamance County. Even so, the imprimatur of Mebane’s city council has proven enough of an incentive for the Texas-based retailer, which plans to sink $60 million or more into the new center – including some $6 to $10 million for road improvements to accommodate the influx of additional traffic.


THE PUBLIC ASKS: Have a question about a matter of public record? Call The Alamance News at (336) 228-7851; write to the newspaper at P.O. Box 431, Graham, NC 27253; or e-mail alamancenews@mail.com.

If it’s a topic in the public domain — a matter of public record, including issues of government, courts, etc. — we’ll try to find the answer and print it in ‘The Public Asks’ column. (Please furnish as much complete and specific information as possible.)

Note: Issues regarding businesses — including salaries, policies, and practices — are usually not matters of public record, unless they are the subject of governmental or regulatory action, a court suit, or law enforcement activity.

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