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The Mebane City Council unanimously approved a rezoning request and special use permit for the state's first Buc-ee’s location.This decision came after nearly nine hours of discussion at a Jan. 8 city council meeting.

The Mebane location is the Texas-based chain convenience store's second attempt to expand into North Carolina after the company pulled out of its Orange County project in 2021.

Known for its clean bathrooms and vast rows of fueling stations, Buc-ee's is the subject of community backlash in Mebane over potential environmental issues and traffic concerns. The store will be located on a 32-acre site off of Exit 152 on Interstate 40/85, with a preliminary address of 1425 Trollingwood-Hawfields Road.

Ashley Ownbey, development director for the City of Mebane, said Buc-ee’s submitted an initial formal site plan in April 2023, which underwent five different reviews before approval. Buc-ee’s also submitted a traffic impact analysis that was reviewed by the N.C. Department of Transportation and a traffic reviewer contracted by the City.

“We go through pretty stringent reviews compared to other local governments before projects can even go forward with a rezoning request,” Ownbey said.

She said the approval process involved engineers who reviewed stormwater, watershed and floodplain requirements. She also said Mebane’s planning and zoning staff and public works department, alongside the NCDOT, ensured ordinance standards were being met.

Kelly Hunter, the public information officer for the City of Mebane, said the new location will benefit the area, since there are currently only two gas stations at the exit. Hunter said she hopes the store will bring in more commerce and people to a relatively underdeveloped area of Mebane.

Community concerns

Some Mebane community members raised concerns over the approval of the new location. Coda Cavalier, a community organizer with 7 Directions of Service, said they worry clean water in the area will go to Buc-ee’s, while community members struggle to filter water in their own homes. 

Hunter said the City attempted to address some environmental concerns, such as flooding of the underground storage tanks in Buc-ee’s initial design, by redesigning the location of the tanks. But, not every issue could be addressed, she said.

Cavalier said they did not feel the City listened to all the concerns of community members and said the council could have spoken more on these issues to ease people’s minds. 

Cavalier, also a citizen of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation,  said the tribe was not contacted by Buc-ee’s or the city council prior to the development process, though they both said they had reached out to Mebane community organizations. Cavalier said it is important for businesses to connect with the community and try to bridge gaps before putting something in an empty plot of land.

“I'm not opposed to growth, but I really think that there needs to be more consideration about what kind of growth we're planning for Mebane and why,” they said.

Ayo Wilson is the director of clean energy and climate justice with West End Revitalization Association, a Mebane-based nonprofit focused on making amenities for local people of color more accessible. He said the new location is a step in the wrong direction for Mebane.

“Letting Buc-ee’s come to town, which is a massive investment in fossil fuel infrastructure as it stands, is a huge testament to the commitment and dedication to the continuation of fossil fuels,” Wilson said.

With the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides monetary incentives to invest in renewable energy projects, Wilson said Mebane has the opportunity to engage in clean energy infrastructure, yet has chosen to invest in fossil fuels.

Buc-ee’s will add more weight to Mebane’s already-existing infrastructure deficiencies, Wilson said, while communities of color and low-income communities in Mebane continue to fight for basic amenities.

While Buc-ee’s hopes to employ at least 225 full-time workers at this new location, Wilson said a community exists around more than just jobs and good wages.

“There's a lot more to being a good neighbor than just bringing jobs, so those concerns that people have, they shouldn’t be dismissed by Buc-ee’s,” Wilson said.

@DTHCityState |

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