On Monday, the Mebane City Council approved a rezoning request that paves the way for the redevelopment of the ABC Store on US-70 heading into the city.
The rezoning will allow the Orange County ABC Board to build an updated, larger liquor store. The layout of the store will have the retail portion in the front with the warehouse portion, which features a loading dock, in back.
In addition, the redevelopment will add two parking spaces for a total of 29, a 5-foot-wide sidewalk in front of the store along U.S. 70, and buffers made of trees on all sides of the store.
Ballentine Associates out of Chapel Hill is the developer for the project. The new store was designed by Brian Shepard with 1771 Architecture.
“Orange County ABC is looking to make a significant investment in taking their 50-year-old building and updating it into something that’s a little bigger and can serve its customer base a little bit better,” George Retschle, president of Ballentine Associates said.
Retschle added that the current store will remain open during the construction of the new one.
One of the developer’s biggest initial concerns with the project was the site’s lack of access to city sewer services.
“That was one of our anxiety points of getting into this, at first, [because] we were not aware of any sewer available from the sites,” Retschle said.
There is an existing septic system on the site, though, as well as water service, but neither of the utilities come from the city.
The City of Mebane did run a sewer line to Huey’s years back, but the line cannot be connected to the new ABC store, as it’s private pump station, City Manager Chris Rollins said.
“I don’t know where we screwed up, but to allow somebody to put a sewer line from the city all the way down Highway 70 to Huey’s that we can’t use was ridiculous and that was not the way it was presented to City Council,” Council Member Tim Bradley said.
Angela Willoughby of the Orange County ABC Board said when the project was first conceived, it was the board’s hope they could connect to the city’s sewer system. She added, though, the inability to do so is not a deal breaker and that the board, along with their engineering team, would follow the advice of city staff to determine what to do.
Several residents had thoughts and concerns regarding what the plan for the updated liquor store will mean for them.
Pam Welch, whose property in Ashbury is within 300 feet of the ABC store, wanted to ensure the council understood that, if this redevelopment happens, buffers are needed between her neighborhood and the store “to decrease noise level and maintain some level of privacy.”
Mebane resident Mary McFarland was worried the modern, sleek design of the ABC Store will be out of place in Mebane.
“I think the building’s very ugly and I think the color of it doesn’t fit into the color scheme of Mebane,” McFarland said. “There’s no gray cinderblock, prison-looking buildings in our city, period – make it a different color.”
Mebanite Barbara Phillips is delighted to see the “rat-infested, falling-down” ABC Store get a new life, but is worried how the noise and lights of the store will impact her, especially since her property backs up to where the loading area will be.
“That ugly building that you’re going to tear down is actually a barrier for me from visibility and I want to know if you plan to make [a buffer] that will protect my property…” Phillips said. “My bedroom and my dining room are along that back property, and I don’t want to be kept awake at night by bright lights shining in my bedroom.”
Mebane Development Director Cy Stober responded to Phillips’s concerns. “The city does have lighting standards for cutoff lighting to not affect the 20 property owners and they’re not seeking any waivers from that,” he said. “The lighting plan will have to be reviewed by staff and the city will be responsible to make sure they’re not bleed over lights.”
Willoughby also chimed in, and said, “This project is something that we really want to be a good neighbor with, so the deliveries really are done within business hours.”
Gary Tufts had a major concern, too, as two of his properties – one on which his 86-year-old grandmother lives – are often mistaken for the store entrance or used as turnarounds for people who miss the entrance.
“Just this year alone, I’ve had people turn around, doing U-turns in my grass area and breaking my water lines twice, and I had to have that repaired,” Tufts said.
Often, people will park in one of his two parking lots and walk across the property toward the ABC Store. Tufts said none of it bothers him too much, but he worries about his grandmother’s safety when he’s not around.
“I just worry about her when you don’t have something that can stop somebody,” Tufts said. “Because if you pull out now, there’s nothing there that shows you that you cannot walk across there.”
As far as the revamping of the actual ABC Store is concerned, Tufts is all for it. That’s why he requested the Orange County ABC Board build a privacy fence between the stores’ western property line and his eastern property line.
Willoughby said the Orange County ABC Board will be able to fulfill Tufts’ request for a buffer fence.
“ABC is not opposed to paying for a fence for a neighbor, if that is what he’s most comfortable with,” Willoughby said. “We really do want to be a good neighbor, so if a fence is what’s needed, we could do that.”
The Mebane City Council unanimously approved the rezoning request. More information on the progress of the ABC Store will be reported as it becomes available.