Mebane City Council considers Buc-ee's proposal amid heavy public input

Michael Perchick Image
Monday, January 8, 2024
Mebane City Council considers Buc-ee's plan amid heavy public input
Mebane city staffers set up overflow seating ahead of Monday night's City Council meeting, in which officials were set to discuss a proposed Buc-ee's site.

MEBANE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Mebane city staffers set up overflow seating ahead of Monday night's City Council meeting, in which officials were set to discuss a proposed Buc-ee's site.

"A lot of people don't come down this side of the road because most other places are that way. We've been here about 12 years and a lot of people will be like, 'Oh, I didn't know you were here.' And we're like, 'Yeah, we're down here. Just come the other way and just past the truck stops and we're here.' I think it would help a lot," said Kayla Sturges, whose family owns Rain Line, located on Trollingwood Hawfields Road, a short distance from the planned Buc-ee's site.

Sturges grew up in Mebane and pointed to the job opportunities it could create.

I really hope it comes. It's a cool place to go (and) experience.

"I really hope it comes. It's a cool place to go (and) experience, just to drive by. I think it will bring a lot of business to local communities," said Sturges of the iconic Texas convenience store and gas station chain.

"I think it would bring a lot of tourism," added friend and co-worker Kenzie Lashley.

Philip Morgan, whose business neighbors Rain Line, also supports Buc-ee's moving in.

"The jobs, tax revenue, and they're supposed to have some good stuff to eat. (The) gas prices are supposed to be less. I just see overall it being a good thing," said Morgan, who has lived in the city for more than 40 years.

The proposal would include a 75,000-square-foot building on 32 acres, which would include up to 120 fuel pumps. Inside, Buc-ee's offers food and retail, as it's become a destination stop for tourists.

It's also known for its fanatically clean restrooms.

However, the project has also drawn a vocal group of opponents.

"Mebane's infrastructure simply cannot afford the absolute burden that Buc-ee's would bring to the city. We have folks in communities of color and low-income communities feeling the weight of the lack of adequate infrastructure where they live," said Ayo Wilson, a Mebane native who serves as Director of Clean Energy and Climate Justice with West End Revitalization.

Wilson made his comments during a news conference last week, in which a group delivered a petition to city leaders listing why they were against the project.

"This is an area where there's a strong community and a lot of children and elders there who will be deeply impacted by the emissions of these vehicles and the water run-off into the community," said Tyler Whitley, who lives in Mebane and spoke at the news conference.

Kasey Kinsella, who lives in nearby Haw River and works as a community organizer for the advocacy group 7 Directions of Service, contended that the additional traffic will create traffic issues.

"The level of congestion that the roads are going to be facing with an additional 1,000 hourly daily visitors on the weekdays and even more than that on Saturday. And that's just not something that our roads and local people want to be dealing with when we're trying to get to the doctor, to the grocery store, to see friends," said Kinsella.

In December, Mebane Planning and Zoning officials voted 6-3 against the proposed site plans, though it will ultimately be up to City Council to determine whether the site moves forward.

"It's the job of the City Planning Board to make recommendations about development projects specifically. People on the City Council are not necessarily coming from that development background, engineering background. That's what the City Planning Board does. So we would hope at the very least that (City) Council would vote to honor that guidance," said Kinsella.

The debate comes amidst a transformation in Mebane, as the U.S. Census Bureau reports the city's population has grown by about 70% between 2010 and 2022.

"I think Mebane's done a real good job (managing growth)," said Morgan.

Monday night's council meeting begins at 6 p.m.

This story will be updated. Watch for the latest here and on Eyewitness News at 11.