West Ten Road rezoning approved by local City Council

A sign by the City of Mebane publicly advertises a public hearing on the proposed rezoning of 45.81 acres of rural agricultural property along West Ten Road in Orange County, which took place Monday night at the Mebane City Council's monthly meeting. Medline, which is building a 1.2 million square foot medical distribution facility across West Ten Road, along the I-85/I-40 corridor, went under contract to purchase two parcels across West Ten Road - currently a series of abandoned mobile homes and chicken houses - to beautify the property and improve its visibility to its vendors. 

At Monday evening’s Mebane City Council meeting, much of the discussion centered around two parcels of vacant agricultural land along West Ten Road in Orange County, across the street from Medline’s recently-approved 1.2 million square foot medical distribution facility. 

Medline has gone under contract to purchase the property across West Ten Road from its new center, which is currently a series of old chicken houses. 

Back in December, Medline requested a rezoning from Orange County’s rural residential designation to M-2 (light manufacturing). Although the City Council did choose to annex the West Ten Road properties into Mebane’s corporate city limits at its December meeting, they did not act at the time on the light manufacturing rezoning, citing concerns from Council members and public speakers living near the properties about potential property value impacts. 

This time around, Medline modified its request to M-2 (light manufacturing conditional), with a collection of 24 conditional approvals that could potentially be approved eventually for the 48.51 acre site. The properties are outside the scope of Mebane’s long-range plan, but adjacent to the city’s G-2 primary industrial growth area, whose growth management goal is to continue to support industrial development around the I-85/I-40 corridor. 

Austin Watts of Kimrey-Horn in Charlotte, a planning and design engineering firm assisting Medline with its Mebane portfolio, reiterated that Medline’s current plans are to beautify the properties across the street from its massive distribution center, making the area more presentable to its many vendors that will soon be coming to Mebane. 

“They wanted to be able to control their neighbors. They did not want to present a chicken house and run-down mobile homes that had been abandoned as a doormat to their front door,” Watts explained. “They’re looking at this (Mebane site) as being their global location. One of the reasons they’re buying this property (across West Ten Road) is to clean it up. I think their intent is to have an attractive property next to their global headquarters. Somebody could put a larger chicken farm there the way it is right now.”

Watts indicated that Medline wishes to sit on the combined properties for several years - perhaps decades - but they would like the ability to eventually move the property for a use that is not significantly different from that of Medline’s medical distribution operations that will take place nearby. 

With Mebane required, per its Unified Development Ordinance, to rezone the property within 60 days since they had annexed the property into the town’s city limits, a decision had to be made in regards to this site by the February meeting at the very latest. 

The 24 requested light manufacturing conditional uses tied to the rezoning include accessory uses and structures, apparel and finish fabric products, bakery products, beverage products, bulk mail and packaging, cabinet and woodworking shops, communication towers of under 50 feet in height, computer and office equipment, courier services, dairy products, druge and pharmaceuticals, fences and walls, food preparation and related products, office supplies and equipment, outside storage, public works and public utility facilities essential to the immediate area, research, development, or testing services, signs, solar farms, small wireless facilities, temporary portable storage containers, temporary construction, storage or offices, and warehouses - general storage enclosed or self-storage. 

“It’s only going to be uses that are compatible with a Medline-type project. They are a hospital-centric distribution center,” Watts added. “They were more than happy to eliminate many of the noxious uses that could be deemed into the existing code. “It kicks out some of the oddball things. The intent is something that would be professional and be a good mix with Medline in general.” 

“I appreciate your quick turn-around on that. That gives me some comfort, and I hope it gives the neighbors some comfort,” City Council member Tim Bradley said of Medline’s conditional use concessions.

In regards to neighbor concerns about property value impacts, Nick Kirkland, an appraiser from Fuquay-Varina, compared the proposed rezoned Medline properties with two other M-2 zoned parcels within Mebane. 

“We tried to find what impact on value, if any, does the M-2 zoning have on adjoining uses,” Kirkland explained. “What we found from both sites was no significant impact to adjoining property values. It is my professional opinion that once re-zoned, there will be no impact to property values.” 

Medline included language in the proposed rezoning that would allow the company to sale the parcel to a business for any use approved among the 24 different M-2 conditional uses, waiving Article 9 of Mebane’s UDO that requires businesses to get formal approval from the City Council. 

The purchasing business would still have to go through the process of submitting any site plans to Mebane planning staff to ensure compliance with the town’s UDO. But if the plans meet the UDO, the business purchasing the rezoned property from Medline will not have to come back before the Mebane City Council for formal approval of its plans. Special uses such as a solar farm would still have to come before the City Council for a Special Use permit.

“The waiver of Article 9 (of Mebane’s UDO) is a by-product of making the concession of getting rid of more noxious uses,” Watts explained. “By agreeing to forego their rights to have those uses, it makes it a conditional rezoning.”

“Staff would have approval, provided it (the purchasing company’s plans) meets all elements of the UDO,” Mebane Planning Director Cy Stober explained. “If they submit site plans and development plans that meet our UDO, they would not have to come back to Council.”

Patty O’Connor, a local resident who lives off Buckhorn Road, near the Medline properties, spoke for a second time before the City Council regarding her concerns on the future impact of homeowners in the area. 

“Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I’m not worried about the (Medline distribution) warehouse,” O’Connor stated. “But is (West Ten) is a country road. It’s got a certain feel to it that is about the change. I just want the Council to be mightily aware that change can happen with a lot of thoughtfulness. It will impact our property values. We’re not sure if it’s going to be up or down. But certain things will certainly make it come down.” 

“We just approved 600 homes behind ABB and the Mattress Firm. I haven’t seen any reduction in willingness to put large subdivisions in proximity to M-2,” said Bradley, also citing another new home neighborhood being built off Oakwood Street Extension, behind ABB. “I said in the December meeting, from what I’ve seen historically, it didn’t seem to have any negative impact on residential values, but I thought it only fair we do a study.” 

“I think you’ve taken your study as far as you can,” Bradley added in speaking directly to Kirkland, the appraiser. “None of us know what the future holds. It may have an effect negatively - which is doesn’t appear to bear out historically around here - or it could have a positive effect. I don’t know that you could have done any more with your study. People are building new subdivisions next to M-2. It doesn’t seem to be a deterrent.” 

“I appreciate the limitation on the number of uses. These are less aggressive uses that would be next to residential,” added City Council member Patty Philipps. “By restricting the number of uses, the outcome is probably better for adjacent property owners.” 

“The fact that we were able to get the company to whittle down the usage on this thing is quite unique, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not sure that would have happened had Orange County been the zoning people on this,” Mayor Ed Hooks stated, adding that the area has been a priority for industrial growth in Orange County for ten years. “I think we’ve shown we’ve cared about the residents in the area. This area is going to be heavily developed. We know of several properties on Buckhorn that there’s a lot of interest in. We’re going to be faced with this.” 

The City Council approved the conditional M-2 rezoning of the West Ten Property by a contested 4-1 vote, with Jill Auditori casting the single no vote on the matter. With the approved rezoning, Medline will now move forward with the closing of the West Ten Road properties.