The Orange County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on Tuesday to discuss rezoning that would allow Texas-based Buc-ee’s to bring the largest gas station in the world to Efland, a rural community home to just over 700 people.
Despite the company’s claims of bringing jobs and tax revenue to the area, community activists say the proposal poses more threat than opportunity.
A Voice for Efland & Orange, a group of neighbors living near the proposed site, has been vocally opposed to the project. Their concerns include negative impacts on the economy and quality of life, increased traffic and threats to the water quality in the protected Eno Watershed.
Jared Cates, one of the group’s leaders, and an Efland native, moved back to the town last year. Cates, like every property owner living within 1,000 feet of the proposed station, received a letter in August inviting him to an exclusive hearing about the proposal.
Cates said a single sign on Mt. Willing Road was all that informed residents outside the 1,000-foot perimeter and non-land owners about the station’s possible harms. So, he and a few friends hit the streets in September and organized their own community meeting.
The group, part of which eventually became A Voice for Efland & Orange, came out in full force at a planning meeting later that month. That’s where Del Ward, a resident who wasn’t initially informed of the project, joined.
“This whole '1,000 feet' thing is a calculated attempt to keep as many people out of the loop and uninformed about this project as possible,” Ward said.
The group’s Instagram post about the proposal, which was compiled by Ward from a 1,080-page document outlining the proposal, spread quickly through UNC and Orange County.
Cates said Ward’s youthful input helped the group broaden its audience to critically important UNC and Chapel Hill voters and gain traction on social media and GoFundMe donations to buy flyers and road signs.