Medline seeking new zoning request from Mebane, tabled to January

At this month's Mebane City Council meeting, the elected board considered a request from Medline Industries, a company constructing a new $100 million medical equipment distribution center in Orange County, to rezone a piece of property along West Ten Road, across the street from the new distribution center, from Orange County rural/residential to Mebane M-2 (light manufacturing). After approximately an hour of debate at the meeting, the City Council made the decision to table any decisions on zoning changes to the property until after the first of the year, which would give Medline time to provide the City Council with documentation regarding the potential impact of local property values adjacent to the sites. 

At last week’s Mebane City Council meeting, the newly-sworn in elected board made the decision to table a proposed zoning ordinance that would take what was a newly-annexed 47 acre property along West Ten Road, across the street from the soon-to-be constructed Medline medical equipment distribution center, and zone it from R-1 (Orange County rural residential) to Mebane’s M-2 (light manufacturing) zoning designation. 

Medline Industries has purchased the 47.89 acre tract, which was non-contiguously annexed into the Mebane corporate city limits prior to the decision to table the zoning process until January. Medline has also purchased a large series of tracts across the street, adjacent to the I-40/I-85 freeway corridor, for a massive $100 million distribution center. 

Patty O’Connor, who lives along Squires Road, a residential area adjacent to the proposed Medline property, addressed multiple concerns about the zoning request. 

“I just found out that Orange County has a plan to kind of industrialize West Ten Road that has been around for thirty years,” O’Connor said. “I guess I’m concerned about how that’s going to happen. About the people who live there. What industry means on both sides of a road that has a middle school, dozens of homes, a soccer field. How is that going to happen? Do you have a long-term plan for industrialization of West Ten Road? And if you do, how is that going to happen?” 

“Do I have concerns about property values? Yes. Everything I have is tied up in my home,” she continued. “I know that we can’t predict what is going to happen to property values when you open the area to industry, although I don’t know of too many people who seek housing on industrial corridors. I want some sensitivity and thoughtfulness about approving things on both sides of a road. We don’t even know what’s coming on the other side of the road.” 

“I’m a nurse. I’ve used Medline products. I like them. I’m not opposed to their warehouse across the road,” O’Connor added. “But we haven’t even been demonstrated to that they’ll be good neighbors across the road. Now we want to give them a piece on the other side of the road. There’s a dozen homes back there, and we’re going to be impacted. That’s all I can say. There’s lights. There’s noise. There’s trucks. There’s diesel fumes. There’s trash. There’s employees.”

“I feel like this is happening at holiday time. I’m not sure when this came about, but the holidays are busy. It seems to me kind of shoved in fast, at Thanksgiving and over Christmas, when people are thinking about other things,” O’Connor concluded. “My perception. Maybe I’m wrong. But it’s my perception that it’s being moved in when people are distracted. Thank you for hearing me.” 

Steve Brantley, Director of Orange County Economic Development, defended against claims that Orange County and Mebane were trying to sneak the annexation through during a time of year when people were distracted by the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year holidays. 

“As far as the timing goes, there’s nothing being sneaked in quickly during the holidays,” Brantley stated. “It’s just the function of when this project began to look at Orange County. It’s a function of their initial site’s annexation and re-zoning by your board about a month or so ago.” 

Brantley indicated that the North Carolina Department of Transportation has extended up to $1 million to improve West Ten Road westward to Buckhorn Road to strengthen and widen that road. West Ten Road to Buckhorn Road is the designated truck route for all of the Medline trucks. 

“When they (the trucks) are headed to the interstate from the property, Medline has stated twice in previous public hearings that their trucks will not go eastward on West Ten Road toward Gravelly Hill Middle School and towards the Mount Willing Road I-40 interchange, but instead will go to Buckhorn,” Brantley said. 

Brantley added that Medline is “very much hoping” to gain a direct site to Buckhorn Road through their own property by going through the 130-acre site that operates as a weekend flea market in the nearby area. Medline has discussed a possible roadway easement through that property, which would allow Medline to avoid sending any truck traffic ever to West Ten Road. 

“I know that there are a number of developers that are talking with the flea market owners about some ideas of converting that property into something different,” Brantley informed the City Council. “And all of those ideas share the same common need for a road that would cut through that property. Medline has made comments, at least to me, that they would be willing to contribute a substantial cost to that road.” 

Austin Watts, a representative of Kimley-Horn, a Charlotte-based planning and design engineering company that is assisting Medline with the logistics of its Mebane portfolio, indicated that the company’s current plans with the West Ten Road property across the street from its distribution center is to clean up the site.

“What is the intended use of the area south? In keeping with what I said at the Planning Board meeting last month, there is no intended use for it right now other than to clean it up,” Watts explained. “Currently, it is chicken houses, and it kind of looks in disrepair. Medline, being a medical manufacturer, but in this case a medical distribution site, they are wanting to present a clean product to their vendors. Now, at some point in the future, I suspect that they are going to sell that to a comparable use. More than likely it will be industrial, in keeping with their type of vendors that would be compatible use.” 

“Medline purchased that property on purpose - mainly to clean it up,” Watts added later in the meeting. “But by the same token, the intent is that they want compatible uses. Being that they are going to drop north of $100 million on this particular facility, it is not their intent to have something be unsightly across the street. That was 100 percent the reason for them to purchase this property at this time.” 

Some of the approved uses under M-2 light manufacturing zoning in Mebane include such businesses as animal shelters, soaps and cosmetics production, machine shops, bakery products, beverage products, dairy products, recycling and collection stations, moving and storage services, bulk mail and packaging, warehousing and distribution, restaurants with or without drive-thru windows, food stores, convenience stores, and veterinary clinics, among others. No residential uses are supported in M-2 zoning.

“There are literally dozes of uses that are supported in M-2 across the land use spectrum,” said Mebane Planning Director Cy Stober. 

“Technically, industrial is a misnomer. It’s light manufacturing,” added City Council member Tim Bradley. “If you look at that, you’re not talking about an industrial steel plant. You’re talking about something consistent with warehousing, light manufacturing, storage, and shipping. That puts us in a grouping to know typically, that list of zoning are desirable-type industries. We wouldn’t be opening it up to anything industrial.” 

“I do think there is one valid concern, and that is the effect of property values,” Bradley added. “Would it be very difficult for Medline, or whoever purchased the property on their behalf, to have a real estate evaluator give us an opinion? Let us table this for a month, and give us an opinion as to the effect on property values? If I was a homeowner, I would be concerned with what this would do to my investment.” 

The City Council agreed to table the Medline zoning request until after the first of the year, which would allow the company to gather more information regarding potential property value impacts to bring before the elected board for their consideration.