Thursday, July 18, 2024

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Trucking and freight terminal, warehouses on 134 acres along Buckhorn Road near I-85/40 get planning board go-ahead

Mebane planning board members unanimously approved, 6-0, two rezoning requests Monday night that would allow two big projects to be built on about 134 acres along Buckhorn Road, which is within Mebane’s extraterritorial jurisdiction but just over the Alamance County line, in western Orange County.

Mebane’s city council is currently scheduled to consider a petition for contiguous annexation of the same properties at its July 1 meeting – and will now also hear the rezoning requests.

The applicant, Orange County Investors Partnership, and developer R+L Carriers, which has its corporate headquarters in Wilmington, Ohio, are requesting heavy manufacturing/conditional rezoning that would allow for the construction of a trucking and freight terminal on 83.37 acres at 508 and 510 Buckhorn Road, just off I-40/85.

The trucking and freight terminal would displace the Buckhorn flea market, a favorite weekend site for both vendors and shoppers.  Traffic at the Buckhorn Road exit off I-85/40 often backs up as cars seek to make the turn into the flea market from Buckhorn Road.

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That site is located within one of Orange County’s three economic development districts (EDD), established for more than 900 acres in the early 1980s as part of an effort to attract non-residential development in those areas, according to a report that the city’s staff had prepared for the planning board’s discussion Monday night.  Water/sewer infrastructure and gas lines were extended to the property more than a decade ago, according to Orange County officials.

Both of the rezoning requests were determined by the city’s planning staff to be consistent with Mebane’s long-range development goals.

The truck terminal would span approximately 135,950 square feet and have 202 doors; the preliminary plan for that project also calls for construction of 7,500 square feet of office space, a maintenance building, as well as parking for 320 employees and 296 truck parking spaces.

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The darker shaded area would be the heavy manufacturing zoned area for the trucking and freight terminal for R+L Carriers. The lighter shade is light manufacturing for two large warehouses.

A future expansion of the truck terminal could span about 53,000 square feet, with an additional 81 doors, or bays, based on the preliminary site plan and discussion at the planning board meeting.

The second rezoning request, also approved unanimously by the planning board, proposes to rezone five parcels totaling 49.25 acres along Buckhorn Road for light manufacturing/conditional use.  The site, farther south than the trucking facility, at an unaddressed location within the 700 block of Buckhorn Road, is situated within the same “Buckhorn EDD” designated by Orange County.

The plans call for construction of a “warehouse distribution facility” spanning 233,740 square feet and fronting West Ten Road, with parking for 142 employees and up to 46 loading bays.

A second warehouse facility would be built directly behind the first and span 292,640 square feet, with parking for 189 employees, based on the preliminary site plan.

The trucking company’s representative, Sam Mullikin, estimated that the employment impact of the trucking and freight terminal would be 152-162 jobs, most of those (about 130) as dock workers.

Sam Mullikin with R+L Carriers

Mebane’s planning staff noted that the Medline Distribution Center is zoned for light manufacturing, and a nearby industrial development approved for Thermo Fisher Scientific, is also zoned for light manufacturing/conditional district.

The surrounding properties are zoned for currently surrounded by residential, commercial, and light industrial uses, as well as vacant land, based on the staff report.

The planning board heard from several neighbors who live adjacent to the future trucking and freight terminal.  The first, John LoPiccolo, said he was “not looking forward” to his new neighbor.  He was particularly concerned about the potential impact on property values in the adjacent residential subdivision and also noise.

John LoPiccolo, who lives in a subdivision directly behind the proposed new trucking and freight terminal.

He did express appreciation for the 125-foot buffer that will separate the new trucking and freight terminal from the residential area where he lives.

A traffic study showed that several road improvements would be needed for both projects, including separate entrances and exits, as well as dedicated left-turn and right-turn lanes, based on documents discussed Monday night.

Two gas stations, as well as the Petro truck stop, are located directly west of the property being eyed for the truck terminal development.  Another large warehouse complex with about 1 million square feet (in five separate buildings) is already under construction and is located across Buckhorn Road from the proposed R+L Carriers development.

Mebane’s planning staff has determined that both new projects would be consistent with the city’s long-range land-use plans.

The plans for Mebane would apparently be the company’s fifth location in North Carolina.  Late last year, R+L Carriers announced the opening of a new service center in Greensboro. This new facility joined the China Grove (Charlotte), Lumberton, and Wilson locations, becoming the company’s fourth service center in the state.

R+L Carriers is a family-owned business with 25,000 tractors and trailers, 22,000 employees, and 140 service centers across the country.

The company’s representative, Mullikin, estimated that construction would take between 18 to 24 months, projecting a potential opening in 2026.

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