Park enthusiasts plan to appeal a judge's ruling that paved the way for a new rock quarry near Umstead State Park.
On Friday, Wake Superior Court Judge Graham Shirley ruled that the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority (RDUAA) acted within its rights when it awarded a lease to Wake Stone to operate on what is colloquially called the Odd Fellows tract. That lease will allow the mining company to expand a rock quarry near the park's Reedy Creek entrance. The Umstead Coalition says the quarry will disturb park goers and plans to fight the ruling on appeal.
"The proposed quarry represents a real threat to the priceless asset we have in Umstead State Park," Umstead Coalition chairwoman Jean Spooner wrote in a released statement. "We believe RDUAA exceeded its authority by not obtaining the approval of the four local government deeded owners. Therefore, we will continue the fight on appeal. We remain willing to be partners in the much better alternatives that would preserve the Odd Fellows tract, protect Umstead State Park, and provide RDU with more long term sustainable income streams. Destroying the Odd Fellows tract negates this opportunity."
As a legal matter, park enthusiasts had argued that airport leaders did not have the authority to lease property under its control. Instead, they argued, that authority rested only with the property's owners, a coalition of Wake County, city of Raleigh, Durham County, and city of Durham.
Judge Shirley, in his ruling, disagreed. "As a matter of law, RDUAA has the statutory authority independent of the Cities of Raleigh and Durham and the Counties of Wake and Durham to enter into the Lease," he wrote. "The original RDU Charter gave the RDUAA board complete authority over the airport. Nothing in the amendments that followed reflects an intent by the legislature to diminish that authority."
RDUAA will receive a percentage of sales from the crushed stone mined at the site. Wake Stone estimates that agreement will generate about $24 million dollars over the 30-year life of the quarry. In its long-term plan, the airport has some $2 billion worth of projects it wants to undertake, notably including a runway expansion project that would allow RDU to attract longer flights, including direct flights to Asia.