Buckhorn Area Study

Study Area A, the focus of the October public outreach meetings.

Orange County has scheduled two October public outreach meetings regarding the Buckhorn Area Study. The first, an in-person open house meeting at the Efland-Cheeks Community Center, will happen on Tuesday, October 12 from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The second, a Zoom meeting, will take place on Wednesday, October 13 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The masked, socially distanced in-person open house-style meeting will be aimed toward outreach to residents and property owners in Study Area A, located east of Buckhorn Road. The county has sent out notices to nearby and is encouraging all who live in or near Area A to attend, if able.

Soon following the in-person meeting will be an additional meeting, hosted via Zoom, for those in other study areas. The link to the Zoom is at the bottom of the story.

However, the in-person event is not exclusive to Area A residents only and Area A residents can log onto the Zoom meeting as well.

Orange County Planning and Inspections Director Craig Benedict said agendas are still being worked out for the October meetings but added the purpose of these meetings is to give the public opportunities to learn more background on the Buckhorn Area Study and the county’s economic development zones.

Areas A and B have been designated as economic development zones by Orange County since 1994. But, currently, Orange County is only looking into the development of Area A.

Both Benedict and Orange County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) Chair Renee Price confirmed that any plans by Orange County for Area B have been shelved for the time being, as no further action has been taken on the study since June. 

Mebane Development Director Cy Stober said the City of Mebane has not taken any further action on the Buckhorn Area Study, either, and noted Mayor Ed Hooks’ statement, prepared by the council and city staff, during the May Mebane City Council meeting on the study still stands.

Hooks’ statement said that until Orange County completes its process of potential development of Area A, “the City of Mebane, per the historic Orange County agreement, will continue to utilize statutory authority with guidance from City plans and the existing Buckhorn Economic Development District agreement when approached by property owners regarding voluntary annexation and/or ETJ rezonings.”

Benedict explained to the Mebane Enterprise how these meetings will be handled and what the county hopes residents will gain from attendance.

“[The meeting will be] giving an update,” Benedict said. “What are the impacts of growth in the area, will Buckhorn Road be widened someday? Dealing with a lot of things like that, that’s what we plan to do. It’s not going to be a staff-heavy presentation; we’re going to have some maps, we’re going to react to some questions, it’s going to be an open house format.”

Benedict said he isn’t sure how many people exactly will be able to attend, but he figures the community center can “probably hold a reasonable amount of people.”

In June, the BOCC talked of plans to go out to Area A over their summer recess to see the land and meet the people living there. However, Price told the Mebane Enterprise that the emergence and spread of the Delta variant prevented this from happening.

“We thought that we were going to do that, like, at the end of August, [beginning of] September, and then the Delta variant came,” Price said.

In recent months, the county has heard a lot of feedback on the study from residents of Area B during public outreach and BOCC meetings, but has received far less feedback from those in Area A. 

Benedict hopes that since talks of development of Area B are paused, more voices from Area A will be heard during the two upcoming meetings.

“We want to talk about first things first – areas that have been designated specifically for economic development,” he said. “Then, at a later date, we’ll probably get into Area B and find out what we’ll do with that area.”

Price hopes that the meetings will adequately inform the surrounding communities of the situation currently, and what development of Area A could mean for them.

“Our goal is to assure that the community knows what's going on, particularly when it’s something in their backyard,” she said. “I believe in community involvement, community engagement and community empowerment. I really think it's important that the community relate to elected officials and to staff what it is that they want for the place where they live and work and play.”

She added the meetings will also benefit the BOCC in making informed decisions on the Buckhorn Area Study in the future. 

Asked if the BOCC and the Mebane City Council will meet soon, Price said, “I hope so.”

“We did have a joint meeting with the mayor and city council of Mebane [in March], and I felt that that was a very productive meeting because it brought us together – we hadn't had a joint meeting since I don't know when – and allowed us to talk to one another in a cooperative manner to figure out what we’re going to do,” she said. “Because we're looking at development in Orange County, yet Mebane, in Alamance County, is extending the water and sewer which allows for the development in the western part of Orange County.”

Price added that for the county and the City of Mebane to move forward in a collaborative manner, another meeting should be held and noted that the county and city will be coming together to celebrate the opening of the Medline facility soon.

It is unclear at this time if the proposed Elfand Business Park off I-85 at Exit 160 will impact plans for the Buckhorn area.

Link to October 13 meeting: https://orangecountync.zoom.us/j/85630612899?pwd=ejZLUTR2UkdWTkpBYVdWK1ErOWpvdz09#success