At Monday night’s City Council meeting, Mebane’s elected leaders approved a new 35-lot residential development along Stagecoach Road and Ninth Street. Called “Stagecoach Corner,” the new subdivision, which will be developed by Harmony Homesteads, was approved by a unanimous vote.
The new community will feature a mix of one and two-story stick-built homes, featuring three bedrooms and two or two and a half bathrooms. The homes will offer between 1,500 and 2,100 feet of heated and cooled square footage, and will be priced starting in the $225,000 range. The homes will feature crawlspaces finished with engineered stone, along with covered front porches and hardiplank or "SmartSide" exteriors.
The new neighborhood is within the city’s watershed overlay, and there will be a limitation of only 30 percent impervious surfaces, such as home footprints and sidewalks/patios, within the community. The 15.92 acre tract - which was broken into two types of zoning, R-12 and R-20, was approved for a rezoning of R-12 CD (cluster development), which will allow the developer to keep much of the dense, mature forest on the northeast quadrant of the property, along with the tree-heavy exterior perimeter of the property along Lebanon Road and Ninth Streets.
“Most of the development is in a conservation area,” said City Planning Director Cy Stober, adding that it was the first time a request had been made for rezoning in that particular area for the purposes of a residential subdivision. “It is in a protected watershed area. At the Planning Board meeting (in early March), we heard a lot about the value of that forest.”
By rezoning the property to the R-12 CD (cluster development), the developer indicated that there will be greater preservation and conservation, significantly increasing the number of trees onsite, along with the addition more space that is functional for the community, as well as space that falls into the public category.
“We have tried to maximize the trees that are being saved,” said Phil Koch of EarthCentric Engineering, who conducted extensive presentations on behalf of the developer to the Mebane Planning Board and City Council this month. “I have no desire to make it an unsightly subdivision for anybody. The intent is not to make people feel they’re looking at the back of a house.”
The subdivision calls for two neighborhood exits out of Stagecoach Road, which will connect with existing streets along Lebanon Road. There will also be a road running through up to the northern edge of the property, which can be connected to the undeveloped land to its immediate north in case it is ever developed.
The developer will construct a 10-foot multi-use path for bicycle and pedestrian access along the frontage with Stagecoach Road in lieu of dedicating public recreational land. A standard sidewalk is to be constructed along the frontage of Ninth Street, parallel to the community’s western boundary. Construction will be coordinated to protect the trees on Ninth Street.
The developer, per Mebane’s Unified Development Ordinance, was required to set back 2.92 acres for private common area. The developer managed to salvage 6.92 acres in four different areas for private common area. Amenities include a common house with picnic area, fire pit, and community garden, open green, natural buffers, streetscape and tree preservation along the perimeters. The property will ultimately be maintained by a Homeowner’s Association.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation has reviewed the subdivision and determined that it poses no significant increase in traffic. No traffic study or roadway improvements are required. There will be no driveways crossing the multi-use path or the Ninth Street sidewalk. Emergency access is provided at two points. The neighborhood will feature two cul-de-sacs within the property.
Stormwater management is required to meet State and Local water quality and water quantity control requirements. A single stormwater retention pond is proposed on the northern part of the property. The community will tap into the city’s water main along Stagecoach Road, while a sewer extension will be created through an adjacent property to the east, which will connect with the existing sanitary sewer main that runs to the Mill Creek subdivision.
The original home on the property, referred to as the Huey House, is a 2,093 square feet brick house. The Huey House will be painted to be harmonious with the remainder of the community.
One bedroom will serve as the Homeowner’s Association office. Two bedrooms will be used for accommodations of Stagecoach Corner guests. The rooms can be checked out by homeowners within the community for friends, family, and local guests. An outdoor area for socializing and recreation will be built to include a fire pit and patio picnic area.
Developer Donna Sampson explained that it was preferable for Harmony Homesteads to find some use for the Huey House instead of simply tearing it down.
“The Huey family members really wanted to keep the family homestead. One family member offered to buy it back,” Sampson explained. “I’m not the developer that is trying to destroy the land. I’m willing to take that financial hit. I’m on the neighbors’ side, as I might want to put it.”
Multiple local residents - particularly neighbors of the proposed development - implored the City Council to reconsider the development, or at least reduce the number of homesites.
“I would love to see a lot less houses,” said Chuck Champion of 100 East Laramie Drive. “DOT (Dept. of Transportation) has said there’s not a problem, but there’s a lot of traffic on that road. This is going to add 70 to 100 cars. With the new development at Lake Michael, if you’re headed towards Food Lion and the drugstore, you’re heading down that road. Mill Creek will be coming down that road as well. Eventually all those cars are going to be on Stagecoach. It may not be a safety issue. But it will certainly be a very crowded road issue.”
“First thing I’d like to say is I’m not opposed to progress. But mostly I go back to Mebane’s slogan of Positively Charming,” added Robbie Griffin of 900 N. Ninth Street. “My main concern for the proposed Stagecoach Corner development is the amount of homes on the west side of the property. I would like to see a modification to see a reduction of the amount of homes on the west side of the property.”
“I’d like to thank them for taking as much consideration as they have in our neighborhood. And I must say I’m really pleased that they’re trying to save a 400-year-old tree on that property that is really healthy, and the crown probably shades a third of an acre,” added John Hughes of 101 Overland Trail. “We would all like to see less homes in the subdivision. But one thing we can’t stop is Mebane is growing.”
Following a neighborhood meeting on March 25, in which several local citizens addressed their concerns and provided feedback, the developer made a few additional changes.
The cul-de-sac lots in the eastern part of Stagecoach Corner along the street that will be known as Reinsman Court have been narrowed up slightly, creating an additional parking area for up to 10 spaces, along with the placement of a mail kiosk. The additional parking coverage in the Phase I portion of the project should aid in reducing on-street parking within the neighborhood.
The developer also agreed to reconfigure three lots in the cul-de-sac of Coachmans Court, along the far western edge of the property, so only two lots face Ninth Street to the rear.
The developer is willing to provide additional understory trees along those two lots on Ninth Street to help screen the property from the street and sidewalk. This reconfiguration also provides a 10-lot parking area at the community house and private recreation area, while also providing the opportunity to preserve more of the mature trees in this area of the development.
Members of the City Council seemed impressed with Harmony Homestead’s efforts to preserve as much of the natural beauty and amenities on the site as possible, though at least one City Council member was concerned with the potential costs on future homeowners to preserve the Huey House on the property.
“I appreciate how hard you’re trying to preserve the natural characteristics,” City Councilman Tim Bradley said. “I admire your intent to preserve the homeplace. But it would be a concern to me - particularly a house that nobody lives in - the upkeep is going to be substantial. I admire you wanting to save the homeplace.”
“You would really have to be buying into the idea of a cluster subdivision if you wanted to live in this nice little neighborhood,” Sampson said in response to Bradley. “I think you’re totally correct. The Homeowner’s fees will be high relative to a neighborhood that is not environmentally designed.”
“There are a lot of people my kids age who don’t really want to maintain anything,” Sampson continued. “And there are people who are downsizing - who don’t want to maintain big yards, and big houses. When you buy into such a cluster subdivision, you would be buying another house with the purchase of your own house. You would have use of a community dwelling. It would not be a party house. It’s a nice, spacious family ranch home. The neighborhood could gather in the picnic shelter area for their larger happenings.”
“We make a big deal out of greenways and open space,” City Council member Ed Hooks stated. “There is a lot of open space on this project. We would rather have subdivisions with green space. Maybe a few less houses, but more green space. I think this is a great example of our desire to see trees. I have never seen a subdivision plat more dedicated to preserving trees.”
Patti Philipps ultimately made the motion to approve the neighborhood, which was seconded by Everette Greene and approved by the elected board.
“The most compelling reason that I’m in favor of it is that it fits the description of conservation development, by keeping 43.5 percent of the land dedicated to open space, which I think is a very admirable goal. I was very pleased to see so much effort to into that. It also meets a large number of our goals set out in our plans,” Philipps said.