Town officials have heard for years that they don’t have enough rooftops to attract more businesses, but that’s about to change.
Hillsborough has more than 1,000 homes approved and in development now, town Planning Director Margaret Hauth told the Town Board and Orange County Commissioners at their joint meeting last week.
The potential development of 137 acres near a proposed Amtrak station off Churton Street – known as the Collins property – could add several hundred more, she said. Town staff has estimated the population – now roughly 6,400 – could increase 36.3 percent by 2018.
Caruso Homes CEO Jeff Caruso recently told Hillsborough officials that his company has a contract to purchase the land and is planning roughly 700 homes. The company will meet with the public Wednesday at the Town Barn on East Orange Street.
The Collins property is part of 250 undeveloped acres between Interstate 85 and U.S. 70A that could be developed as a whole or split into three different blocks, Hauth said. The town also is weighing the possibility of building a road parallel to Churton Street across the land, she said.
The town owns the 20-acre Amtrak station site. The N.C. Department of Transportation is expected to pay roughly 90 percent of the $8.4 million project; Orange County’s half-cent sales tax for transit is expected to pay the rest.
Commissioners Vice Chairman Barry Jacobs expressed concern that Hillsborough was letting itself be overrun with homes. Waterstone was a lost opportunity to add more retail and commercial development, he said.
“We’ve talked a lot about economic development,” Jacobs said. The Collins property “would be a great place for more than just residential, and I think considering that Hillsborough is bringing a thousand units online now, the market is certainly being addressed for housing.”
The town is seeing infill development, not sprawl, and is prepared, Board member Eric Hallman said. Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens agreed, noting that the town aims for 60 percent residential and 40 percent commercial.
“The analogy that comes to me is we’re out surfing and we’re looking at the waves, and the wave that’s coming at us is a bit bigger than what we expected,” Stevens said. “But it’s not a tsunami.”
Hillsborough and central Orange County are experiencing a lot of business interest, county economic development director Steve Brantley said.
Morinaga’s new candy factory – opening this summer in the Buckhorn economic development district – could attract more business investment, he said.
Several businesses are looking now at available sites in Hillsborough and the county, Brantley said, including the N.C. 57 industrial park, historic Eno River Mill and on land across from Home Depot on N.C. 86. A Sheetz station is being built, he said, and there is interest in more retail, restaurant and commercial uses.
The county also has “a very active, serious prospect” for the warehouse that Southern Season will vacate later this year for Mebane, he said.
“I cannot speak specifically about that, but it’s pretty exciting news,” Brantley said, “and it’s a pretty cool kind of business that’s going do a lot for that side of west Hillsborough in that regard.”
Caruso Homes will host a public meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 29, in the Town Board, located at 101 E. Orange St., to discuss “Collins Ridge,” a planned mix of homes and businesses on 137 acres adjacent to Hillsborough’s future Amtrak station.
No formal application has been filed.