Rental townhome community to come before City Council in September

Earlier this month, the Mebane Planning Board recommended a rezoning request from Mebane NCTH, LLC for The Artisan at Mebane, a new townhome rental development on a 12-acre tract of a 50.89 acre property located at 4000 Arrowhead Blvd. The Planning Board approved the project by a 7-2 vote, with members Larry Teague and Gale Pettiford voting against the proposed rental community. The project will now come before the Mebane City Council at its next meeting on September 14. 

Earlier this month, the Mebane Planning Board recommended a rezoning request from Mebane NCTH, LLC for The Artisan at Mebane, a new townhome rental development on a 12-acre tract of a 50.89 acre property located at 4000 Arrowhead Blvd. 

Mebane City Planner Ashley Ownbey explained that NCTH LLC’s request was for B-2 to R-6 conditional rezoning for 85-unit townhome cluster development, located on a property that is currently part of the Tanger Outlet Center. The property is located within the Mebane city limits along the I-85/I-40 corridor and Arrowhead Blvd. 

In terms of City’s Comprehensive Land Development Plan, the property is in the City’s G4 Secondary Growth Area, and also has some conservation area on the site given the flood plains and buffers. A FEMA flood plain runs through the property. The property is currently primarily a vacant lot, utilized as overflow parking for Tanger Outlets. 

The site plan for The Artisan at Mebane shows an 8-foot wide, privately-maintained gravel walking trail that will interconnect with Mebane City sidewalks. The applicant proposed a road network through the property. The applicant requested smaller lot sizes - a minimum of 1,900 square feet - as well as waivers on setbacks for its cluster-type townhome development. The developer also requested a reduction from 213 to 195 parking spaces. 

Brett Basnight of Longbranch Development, who is working on the project on behalf of the developers, broke down the layout of the townhomes. 

“What you’re looking at on the plan is a series of compromises that staff and our design team reached,” Basnight told the Planning Board. “Essentially what you have on every single lot is a 20-foot townhome that has a garage attached. The townhome lives with the living room and kitchen on the bottom floor, and all bedrooms for the townhomes are upstairs.” 

“Something that’s very important to us is to make sure that we can provide a value-oriented product,” Basnight added. “And that’s what drives the 20-foot townhome. Our square footages here are a maximum of 1,600 square feet per unit. The 20-foot townhome, along with the lot fit size, is what creates the need for the waiver. I think the end result is going to be a very attractive design aesthetic.”

Paul Koonts, a Burlington attorney representing the applicant in its presentation before the Planning Board, explained that Tanger Outlets is selling a section of its property to the developer. 

“One of the things that should be clear is Tanger is the seller in this transaction. So they’re fully aware of the project that is being proposed, and understand the implications to their site, of course,” explained Koonts. “This is a townhome development. These townhomes are going to be both front entry and rear entry available. The idea here is that we’re going to have 85 townhomes. There’s going to be onsite management. They’re going to be rental. There would be a garage on the back (of the rear-entry homes), and then the front (entry) with the garages in front.” 

Koonts added that the development is slated to include a swimming pool along with the walking paths. 

“All the walking paths and the sidewalks connect. Obviously, it’s within easy walking distance of shopping. And across Arrowhead, there’s a number of single-family residential (homes), as well as multi-family developments,” Koonts said. “I think the zoning report and the staff report is fantastic, if you read through there. It meets all the criteria that Mebane puts in place. It’s in compliance with the plan.” 

Ownbey read a pair of public comments from two residents - Deborah Greer and Corey Trimpey - who live within nearby Arrowhead Green. 

Greer and Trimpey, who both live along Applecross Drive, expressed concerns about losing the overflow parking lot at Tanger Outlets, particularly during the Black Friday and Christmas shopping seasons. 

“My concerns with the rezoning request have to do with the portion on the site map that appears to be the overflow parking for Tanger,” Greer said in her comments. “Every year during Thanksgiving Holiday weekend or Black Friday, that overflow parking lot becomes necessary for the large volumes of shoppers that come for Holiday shopping at the Outlets. However, with the Arrowhead Greens community right across the street, we have become an overflow parking lot for shoppers as well.” 

“Depending on what Tanger establishes as their shopping hours, we begin to have people parking in our neighborhood late afternoon on Thanksgiving. Usually, after the two vacant lots on Arrowhead Boulevard have filled up with cars, then it is non-stop with shoppers coming to park in Arrowhead Greens throughout the Thanksgiving Holiday, Black Friday, and most of the day Saturday.” 

“The thing is, if the overflow parking lot goes away, I feel like the parking situation will become even worse for Arrowhead Greens. Where else will all the additional shoppers park? I can’t begin to explain our level of frustration with this,” Greer continued in her letter to the Planning Board. “Three years ago, the City or maybe the Police Department, had placed a partial barrier at the Applecross Drive entrance, and this helped considerably with the parking. But it was just the one time. The overflow parking lot should stay, and my hope is that Tanger, with the City’s help, can find a solution for their customers to park outside of Arrowhead Greens. 

“I have been a resident of Arrowhead Greens since July 2015. Over the past five years, I have seen the overflow during the Holiday season. This has been great for business for Tanger, but has caused challenges when the overflow lot has reached maximum capacity,” added Trimpey. 

“If the overflow lot is removed and built upon with this job, then I am requesting that Mebane PD be available to monitor Applecross Drive while within shopping season,” Trimpey added. “This Mebane PD monitoring should be conducted each weekend starting Black Thursday and Friday through December 25. You always have consumers utilizing that parking lot which is planned to be built upon. Arrowhead Greens streets are public, but they are not engineered for the type of heavy traffic or public parking as the Tanger parking lot is designed to accomplish.” 

Charles Worsham, head of Development and Construction for Tanger Outlets, acknowledged the legitimate parking concerns, but qualified that those were short-term, temporary situations that affected local residents typically only a few days a year. He added that Tanger Outlets General Manager Jeffrey Johnson works hard alongside his staff to mitigate the parking during heavy-traffic seasons. Tanger Outlets currently has over 1,100 parking spaces on its site. 

“Obviously, one of the downsides of being a very successful retail center is the parking,” Worsham said. “The term “overflow” parking has been used quite a bit in the discussion. The parking that was constructed there was actually intended for a multi-tenant retail building that in the end we elected not to build in the original construction.” 

“The center itself with the parking, we meet code. We meet the requirements,” Worsham continued. Yes, during the Holiday season, the excess parking east of the creek does tend to fill up. I know they’ve gone through considerable effort the past couple of years to come up with mitigating programs for this. I know they lease parking from Cone Health, and actually run a shuttle back and forth. They’ve also set up a valet service, using the Cone Health parking as well as some of ours, to help mitigate that parking (situation). In the past, there has been some cooperation with the City of Mebane Police to try to prevent the parking that spills over.” 

“Unfortunately, customers are just not cognizant of being good neighbors when they park in the streets in there. This tends to be that Black Friday weekend that we kind of hit the peaks, where it has unfortunately been spilling over. Those peak days of the year, we try to be diligent and do the best we can to manage it.” 

The Planning Board approved the project by a 7-2 vote, with members Larry Teague and Gale Pettiford voting against the proposed rental community. The project will now come before the Mebane City Council at its next meeting on September 14. 

Another Planning Board member who voted to recommend the project to the City Council, Kurt Pearson, expressed his concerns about the high number of rental properties currently around Mebane. 

“There’s quite a few (concerns) to me. Some of them are substantial. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Council looks at this. We’re just recommending whatever to them,” Pearson said. “ 

“I like the rear-facing entry. Kudos for that. I think it’s really neat. I think it’s good you proposed that. I’m just concerned in general about the City becoming this rental haven, really. And it really has nothing to do with this development in general, because I like it. I think the design is really good. The location is great for it.”

“The updated number we got was 37 percent rentals (throughout Mebane),” Pearson continued. “I’ve been saying for a long time, I think that’s really high. I guess the question really is for the City, the staff, the Council really, what’s enough? When do we get too many? When is it actually unhealthy? 40 percent? 45 percent? 50? As a practicing planner, back in another life, I would say we’ve probably stepped over that boundary already.”

“Don’t get me wrong - I’m not picking on this development per-se,” he continued. “I just want to bring up again the discussion and the thought that maybe we have stepped over this unhealthy line in the percentage of rentals in our town.”