Northern Campus FAQs

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What progress has been made regarding the Northern Campus since the County acquired the properties in April, 2018?

Since the acquisition of the properties, the Board of Orange County Commissioners have given direction on the planned capacity of the Detention Center as well as future expansion capabilities during the Capital Investment Planning process in June.  The Board has also authorized the creation of one Capital Project that absorbs the former Detention, Environment and Agriculture Center, and the Park Operations Base projects. 

County staff and its designers have submitted a preliminary site plan to the Town of Hillsborough for its review and ultimate approval over the next few months.  Approval of this site plan will allow the County to move forward with the construction of the Northern Campus.

Additionally, the Board has authorized the Manager to enter into a Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) agreement with Bordeaux Construction, Inc. and has begun extensive stakeholder input sessions as part of the initial design process. 

What is a Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR)? 

A CMAR is a firm that is serves as a Construction Manager in an agreement with Orange County.  As the CMAR, Bordeaux Construction will work closely with the County and its Designers in all phases of facility programming, design, cost estimating, value engineering, and construction project management.  The CMAR will provide a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) for the project for the Board’s consideration and approval prior to beginning of construction.

Why does Orange County need a new detention center?

The county has been studying the feasibility of a new detention center for several years. The Orange County jail was originally built in 1925 to house 34 inmates and has been expanded several times since to its current capacity of 129. The last expansion occurred in the mid-1990s. The number of beds will increase slightly with the new facility, which will also offer potential for additional expansion should future needs dictate.

The current jail needs significant upkeep each year to meet minimum standards as established by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. The current facility has several inadequacies that must be addressed, including an aging cell locking mechanism that is expensive to repair and will need to be replaced, insufficient kitchen, medical and laundry facilities and an inadequate suicide watch cell, especially for female inmates.

Why does Orange County need a new Environment and Agricultural center?

The current Environment and Agricultural Center was originally a grocery store and was built in 1960. This facility also has significant challenges for ongoing repair and maintenance. It currently houses the Department of Environment, Agriculture, Parks and Recreation (DEAPR) administrative and agricultural services offices, Soil & Water, Cooperative Extension, USDA Rural Development and the Farm Services Administration.

The proposed site provides an opportunity to design and construct a modern and accessible agriculture facility and grounds to meet the needs of the agriculture community in Orange County. The site also provides the same opportunity for a co-located Parks Operations base, which will provide more efficient management of county parks operations. The projects are already planned for in the county’s long-term capital plan.

How does the county intend to acquire the land?

The land is being sold voluntarily by the current owners. A purchase and sale agreement has been entered into between the owners and Orange County at a negotiated price. The Board of Orange County Commissioners will contemplate purchasing the land after the completion of the site examination activities that were authorized by the Board during its Jan. 23, 2018, regular meeting.

Aren’t there other sites you could use?

The county worked for several years to acquire the ground lease rights for state property near the Orange Correctional Facility (a state minimum security prison) at the intersection of NC 86 and Interstate 85 in Hillsborough (across from McDonalds) to locate the Orange County Detention Center. Ultimately, the County could not negotiate acceptable terms with the state. After this fell through, county staff identified four possible locations – rebuilding on the current site, building next to the courthouse, a site on Highway 86 North near Coleman Loop Road, and the Highway 70 site.

Rebuilding on the current site would require the county to demolish the existing facility and house prisoners in a temporary location during construction. This would cost the county an additional $5.8 million. Building next to the courthouse would have been a major disruption to downtown Hillsborough for the length of the project. The Town of Hillsborough staff did not support either of these options. The Coleman Loop Road site did not have adequate utility service, and was expected to cost a minimum of $700,000-$800,000 to extend adequate utilities to the site.

Why is the Highway 70 site the best location?

The Highway 70 site was recommended by staff for several reasons.

  • The location provides excellent access to the courts campus and Interstate 85.
  • The location has water and sewer services adjacent to the site. Capacity and flow analysis is being conducted as part of the examination of the site.
  • This site is supported by the Town of Hillsborough staff. Since the site falls within Hillsborough’s planning and land use ordinance jurisdiction, the county is following the prescribed process for the necessary land-use and zoning ordinance amendments to develop the campus site as envisioned.
  • The site offers more operationally efficient agriculture center, park operations center, and detention center transportation routes.
  • There are no existing structures on the site.
  • The site can accommodate other uses – e.g. the Agricultural Center, Parks Operations base and Park-and-Ride lots.
  • A campus site development strategy for multiple facilities allows for more cost and operations efficiency.
What will happen to the current facility?

If the Highway 70 site is approved, the county would conduct a study to determine the best and highest use of the current detention center and the current Environment and Agricultural Center.

What is ETJ?

Extraterritorial Jurisdictional (ETJ) authority is the process by which a municipality extends their land development regulations (i.e. zoning and subdivision regulations) to an area around its existing corporate limits. By doing so, the ETJ area is developed ‘in harmony’ with those adjacent properties already located within the municipality's corporate limits as they are required to abide by the same development standards. North Carolina cities have had ETJ authority since approximately 1959.

What is the Comprehensive Plan?

The Town of Hillsborough has adopted a Comprehensive Plan outlining, amongst other things, the anticipated levels of growth throughout the community. The Plan represents the vision of the Town outlining areas where various land uses (i.e. residential, commercial, office, industrial, etc.) are anticipated to occur. This allows community officials to work with property owners to promote specific land uses and development intensities throughout the Town.

As part of this process, the Town of Hillsborough and Orange County jointly adopted the Central Orange Coordinated Area (COCA) Land-Use Plan for lands within the Town's established Urban Service Boundary. The COCA Land-Use Plan, which is a component of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, is a tool to determine the consistency of any proposed rezoning request with the Town/County future land-use visions for a given area.

The area the county is looking to develop is designated as ‘Rural Living,’ which is an area intended to allow for low-density residential uses (densities below 0.5 dwelling units per acre) in areas without public water and sewer service, in locations where continued low-intensity use without public water and sewer is desirable for the foreseeable future. Given the availability of utility infrastructure (i.e. water and sewer) the County is requesting a change in the future land-use designation of this area to ‘Suburban Office’. This will only become effective if the request is adopted by the Town after its public hearing.

What Hillsborough land-use ordinance provisions are being requested to be amended by Orange County for the County Northern Campus?

The County has applied for a future land-use amendment to designate the properties as “Suburban Office” as well as a zoning amendment to designate the properties as “Economic Development District.”  Questions about this process should be directed to the Town of Hillsborough Planning Department.

If the county acquires the properties for the Northern Campus uses, would the properties be annexed into Hillsborough?

Hillsborough cannot involuntarily annex property; however the county can apply to have its property be voluntarily annexed into the Town limits and jurisdiction. No decision has been made on this yet.

What are the criteria used in site selection and evaluation for the Orange County North Campus?

Major criteria include:

  1. Proximity to the major Orange County government service campuses and parks for operational considerations;
  2. Proximity to and capacity of established utilities (water, sanitary sewer, power, natural gas, etc.) and transportation routes;
  3. Physical site conditions;
  4. Potential for co-located and centralized “campus” services;
  5. and long-range land planning considerations established within adopted County and other planning jurisdiction policies and ordinances.
What kind of due diligence did the county perform on the site?

The county conducted several tests and surveys for the site. Below are PDFs of the various environmental and site surveys the county authorized.