I oppose the RDU Airport Authority’s deal to provide a land-lease to remove rock and stone from the 105 acre Odd Fellows tract at the airport. I oppose this deal for several reasons.
Unlike a lease, a land-lease allows the removal of land resulting in an enormous quarry that will ultimately be hundreds of feet deep adjacent to Umstead State Park. The land is currently forested meaning that building the quarry will require the removal of thousands of trees. In addition to Umstead Park, Crabtree Creek and the East Coast Greenway are literally within feet away. The impacts will be huge, undesirable, and they will be permanent.
Added to this deal has been a recent attempt by the Airport Authority to also weaken the Neuse Buffer rules that protect our water supply. The weakening of the buffer rules would affect not only the buffers near the Crabtree Creek but also throughout the Neuse River basin.
It is my opinion that the Airport Authority is overstepping its authority in its pursuit of the quarry deal and the weakening of the Neuse Buffer rules. The Airport Authority was established to run an airport. Far reaching decisions regarding land-leases and rules affecting the region’s water quality should be left to elected local governments. They are not and should not be the purview of an appointed body such as the Airport Authority.
I support challenging the Airport Authority’s decision to enter into the quarry agreement. We can challenge that decision either by joining a law suit brought by the Umstead Coalition or we can initiate a separate lawsuit. As one of the four owners of the property, I believe we have standing and legitimate claims to pursue such a lawsuit. I am ready to vote in favor of taking such action.
Finally, it is really regrettable that we have to reach this point. The issue of funding the airport could have been discussed. The Airport Authority expects to earn $24 million from the quarry deal over the next 30 to 40 years with much of that money earned many years into the future and without guarantees. At the end of that time area citizens – our children and grandchildren – will be left with an enormous hole in the ground that could cost far more than $24 million in the long run to manage.
We could find alternative funding – both private and public sources. Indeed, the Conservation Fund – a national environmental organization – has offered $6.4 million up front. The four local governments could each contribute $150,000 a year to make up the difference – a very modest sum given the economic importance of the airport and given the importance of Umstead State Park, Crabtree Creek, the East Coast Greenway, our water supply, and environment.
By finding alternative funding we can ensure the success of the airport and the protection of our environment and a better future for our children and future generations.