City of Mebane approves new community in Orange County

The Mebane City Council approved at last week's meeting a new 177-unit residential development along Bowman Road in Orange County. The communities - named Bowman Village and Bowman Place - will be located along Bowman Road to its south and north. The homes will be priced starting in the low $200,000s, which is considered workforce-level housing in Orange County. They will be built largely on slab foundations, as indicated above.

The Mebane City Council, in a rare contested vote that ultimately had to be settled by Mayor Glendel Stephenson, approved at last week’s meeting a new 177-unit residential development along Bowman Road in Orange County. 

The development, named Bowman Village and Bowman Place, will be developed by TES Development, LLC on 69.22 acres on both sides of Bowman Road, on property being sold by Clarence W. Doby.  

Although a portion of the proposed development sat in what was deemed a manufacturing/industrial district by Orange County, the developer submitted an application for rezoning of the property, which was approved prior to the approval of the residential development itself. 

“Bowman Road sort of splits the property into two,” Mebane Assistant City Manager Chris Rollins explained. “What was in the (Orange County industrial) development zone is the piece of the parcel on the north side (of Bowman Road) - approximately 24 acres. For industrial purposes, when you look at the size, and the location with the Rock Quarry Road coming up there also, the reality is it’s not the best industrial zone. There’s still areas on that side of the road we think could be developed for industry.”

Mebane city officials indicated that they have heard from the Orange County planning department. They said that according to Craig Benedict, the longtime Planning Director of Orange County, the petition from TES Development for the rezoning of the new community is consistent with state law and the interlocal agreement between Orange County and Mebane. 

Additionally, Orange County and the City of Mebane have a Utilities Service Agreement, although there is nothing in the agreement with Orange County that limits Mebane’s power to annex Bowman Village and Bowman Place, along with other nearby areas in western Orange County, into the town’s corporate limits. 

“The focus with staff has been to focus more on an easternmost portion for the industrial area along Buckhorn Road, as opposed to this particular area. I think the consensus among staff is this land is better-suited for residential than it is industrial,” City Planning Director Cy Stober said.  

“For that particular piece, it seems more suited for a residential project than an industrial project,” added Rollins. “In the end, there is agreement that despite what the original plan showed, this particular parcel, they (Orange County) are okay with residential use there.”

Stober explained that the rezoning request was for a Residential Cluster Development, with 2.55 dwelling units per acre on what is currently agricultural land. 

According to EarthCentric Engineering representative Phil Koch, who is assisting the developer with the project, the site sat in Orange County zoning district AR (agricultural/residential), and is mostly surrounded by AR with O/RM (residential medium density) zone to the north. 

TES Development, LLC proposed to the City Council two communities, totaling 177 units. 49 homes are to be constructed north of Bowman Road, and 128 south of Bowman Road. The 49-home segment to the north is to be called Bowman Village, while the 128-unit segment will be called Bowman Place. 

Prices in Bowman Place and Bowman Village will start in the low $200,000’s, which qualifies as workforce-level housing in Orange County, based on its high average family income of well over $60,000 per year. The homes within the community will be construction on grade slab foundations except where not feasible due to grades. 

The community will feature 27.1 acres of private common area - approximately 39.5 percent of the site. There are plans for a currently cleared open area north of a stream in Bowman Village to feature amenities such as a walking tail, open field and picnic pavilion. There are plans for a large natural wooded are to the south in Bowman Place to include a walking trail and dog park. 

There will be direct connections into the community from Rock Quarry Road and Bowman Road, with sidewalks on one side of all streets within the neighborhood, as well as connecting streets such as Bowman Road and Rock Quarry Road. There will be three stormwater ponds situated around the development - one pond to the north in Bowman Village, and two ponds to the south in Bowman Place. 

North and south turn lanes will be constructed along Bowman Road to relieve traffic at the intersections leading into the communities. A 2017 traffic count puts Bowman Road at approximately 1,200 average daily trips by local automobiles. Current traffic counts are actually down from 2011, when there were average daily trips of approximately 1,500 vehicles in that area. 

Primary concerns on the neighborhood, based on input from neighbors at a Mebane Planning Board meeting held earlier this spring that included discussion on the subject of Bowman Place/Bowman Village, included separation with units to the east of the proposed neighborhoods, the possibility of a fence along the western side of the property to separate neighboring properties, as well as access to a small cemetery on the property. 

The developer agreed to provide a berm and change setbacks with additional foliage between three homes to the immediate northeast of the Bowman Village community. In addition, TES also will upgrade the fencing along the western side of the property line or install a new fence along the buffer to protect residents from an electric fence and chemical sprays coming from nearby farmland. In addition, a path is being created to provide easier access to the private cemetery. Fencing will add protection for grave sites. An easement is also being provided for the family whose relatives are in the cemetery. 

Buildout of the development is projected to take two to three years, with construction beginning sometime in the fall of 2019 or the spring of 2020.  

The entrances that are proposed were worked out with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, which require 600 feet between those entrances. There is no required widening beyond the development. Roads meet all taper requirements for 55 mile per hour design speed, as arranged with the NCDOT. The posted speed is 45 miles per hour in that area. 

“I think adding the berm and the leyland cypress will provide a separation between the two (homesites) behind the existing lots there,” City Council member Tim Bradley said. “I think you could get a 3 to 4-foot berm, and get trees on top of that.” 

The developer explained that they will have to put breaks in the berm to allow runoff to vacate the area.

Patti Philipps moved to approve the development and its annexation into the Mebane corporate city limits, while Ed Hooks seconded. Both Philipps and Hooks voted in favor of the community, while Bradley and Jill Auditori voted against it. 

Everette Greene, President of Mebane Lumber and Building Supply, recused himself from taking action on the community, leaving a rare 2-2 tie. 

In one of the few times in recent memory, a formal decision on behalf of the City of Mebane was tied, which forced Mayor Glendel Stephenson to break the tie. 

“Looks like the Mayor is going to vote here one time,” Stephenson said. “I’ve discussed the matter with the (City) attorney (Lawson Brown), and with the City Manager (David Cheek) and Chris (Rollins). I’ve looked at the project very thoroughly. Our city has grown quite rapidly over the last few years. And in some cases, we’re running out of space.” 

“Everything we do now is at the edge of the city. The word harmony was used. We’re acknowledging everything we do could not be in harmony with the folks next door. It’s all at the edge of the city,” the Mayor continued. “Our attorney tells us that harmony is no longer a consideration with the state (of North Carolina) when residential property (zoning) is concerned. Orange County says we can’t do industrial development on this piece as property. And we encourage the use as presented here.” 

Stephenson then announced that he was voting in favor of the project. 

And with that, yet another large-scale residential community is on its way to Mebane.