Last week the City of Mebane hosted a joint meeting with Orange County and the Piedmont Triad Regional Council to discuss the Buckhorn Area Plan - a plan designed to prepare for the long-term usage of the area along the Buckhorn Road corridor in western Orange County. Participants in the session included Anna Hawryluk, Regional Planner, and Jesse Day, Regional Planning Director with the Piedmont Triad Regional Council, as well as Cy Stober, the City of Mebane’s Planning Director, Craig Benedict, Orange County Planning and Inspections Director, Tom Altieri, Comprehensive Planning Supervisor for Orange County, and Tom Ten Eyck, Transportation/Land Use Planner II for Orange County.
“The Buckhorn Area Plan is a joint planning effort between the City of Mebane and Orange County, assisted by the Piedmont Triad Regional Council as a consultant. The City of Mebane’s land area is approximately 25 to 30 percent in Orange County. The idea of the meeting was the gather public input that could change some of the language in the plan,” explained Stober at the beginning of the two-hour session.
The Buckhorn Area Plan originates from an annexation and rezoning action taken in December 2019. The Medline company came to the City with an annexation and rezoning request. Those requests were granted by the City Council.
“Per North Carolina General Statutes, we are required to amend our adopted plans to reflect the actions of the City Council. Our comprehensive plan needs to included these two (Medline) properties. However, we saw this patchwork approach would not be beneficial for long-term planning purposes,” said Stober. “There is a utility service area in the Buckhorn area that has immediate or potential water and sewer service. We contracted with PRTC to provide input on factors that we thought would be constructive in determining economic development potential in this area.”
Stober explained that the utility lines in the Buckhorn area are reserved for economic development purposes, and Mebane wanted to further evaluate that.
“We also wanted to evaluate the potential for those who are interested in subdividing property for very low-density residential purposes that may want water and sewer to have the potential ability to do so. So that is a secondary consideration of this plan. But first and foremost, we are required to bring our adopted plans into compliance with the actions of the City Council,” said Stober.
The Mebane staff’s recommendation at the November Planning Board meeting and the upcoming December 7 Mebane City Council meeting is to expand the Buckhorn Primary Growth Area. But Stober was very careful to add that the City does not have any intention of using the power of eminent domain to forcibly annex someone’s property into Mebane.
“The City is not ordering anyone to change the way they use their land. In fact, we’ll be fine with people continuing to use their land as-is indefinitely,” Stober explained. “However, if someone would like to utilize the City’s water and sewer services, we do require those services, by City policy, to be annexed by the City, and zoned by the City.”
“The City will not be actively and independently coming to a new zoning district on your property. This plan is not intended to expand our extraterritorial jurisdiction,” the Mebane Planning Director added. “The City will not be coming to forcibly annex your property. This study is not to support eminent domain to widen roads, or take land to develop it for economic purposes. This study is simply designed to provide staff guidance for projects that come to us that are requesting water and sewer service, and/or annexation into the City and rezoning. This is just an action by staff to address what we see as recurrent requests from economic developers in the area, to serve the best interests of the utilities in that area that are reserved for economic development.”
“There has been a joint partnership between Orange County and the City of Mebane since the early 2000s,” added Benedict, the Orange County Planning Director. “That cooperation has contributed to two utility extension agreements that we had in 2004 and 2012, that enabled Orange County to install infrastructure in support of economic development. And eventually the City of Mebane would take over responsibility for those lines.”
“We’ve recognized over the last few years that the activity in the Buckhorn Economic Zone, which really spanned from parts of Efland all the way back into Mebane, are under increasing pressure for development,” Benedict continued. “And we wanted to analyze what we had available with Orange County’s Lane Use Plan and comprehensive documents, and see if the infrastructure is adequate for that area. This plan is a plan to continue that coordination, and to find out what we need for the future in this general area. To analyze all aspects of infrastructure, growth, water, sewer, and land use planning. This is a process that we’re going through between both jurisdictions to see what the future may hold for this area, and if changes are necessary, or adequate as they are now.”