Group steps up protest against development of airport land

Posted January 4, 2019 6:48 p.m. EST
Updated January 4, 2019 6:56 p.m. EST

The Umstead Coalition is stepping up opposition to a plan that could convert some unused land near Raleigh-Durham International Airport to a rock quarry. The group says there is better use for the property, and they want to get the word out.

Around the area in question, signs in protest against the plan are popping up like a crop of winter mushrooms.

"When people find out that our public land may be given over to a private company, to create a quarry, essentially a very large hole in the ground, they get a little angry about that," said Umstead Coalition member Nancy Pekarek.

The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority owns the plot of land sandwiched between Interstate 40 and Umstead Park. It was purchased years ago for a runway project that was never built. The airport would like to turn the property into revenue.

Pekarek and the Umstead Coalition think the land would be the perfect place for a park.

"Think the value of Central Park in New York City, that's the value we have in this land here," she said.

But that's not the only suggestion for the land. Back in November, Wake Stone Corporation presented a plan to mine the land for the rock, creating a quarry operation to go with its existing operation nearby.

Thomas Oxholm, a vice president of Wake Stone, said the company is waiting on RDU to make some decisions, and that no action on the plan is imminent.

Pekarek, too, said she hasn't been told what the timeframe is.

On Friday, the airport authority acknowledged the conflict, issuing this statement:

We understand airport property that's not currently in use continues to be a topic of conversation. Once a formal proposal comes before the board again, we're confident our directors will listen and consider all options thoughtfully.

Pekarek and the Umstead Coalition don't want to wait. They want to weed out what they call a bad idea and plant their own plan instead.

The airport authority says it hopes groups can work together to find the best outcome. The board tabled formal discussion about the land last year.