Local News

Officials seek holding pattern on possible UNC airport authority

Posted June 17, 2008 6:12 p.m. EDT

— The chairman of the Orange County Board of Commissioners has asked state lawmakers to table a bill that would allow the University of North Carolina system to create its own airport authority.

House Bill 2725 would allow the UNC system to build and run airports under the guidance of an airport authority. The university system wants the authority so it could eventually replace Horace Williams Airport with another facility.

UNC-Chapel Hill plans to close the airport to develop its planned Carolina North campus.

Medical helicopters and private pilots fly in and out of Horace Williams Airport, and medical helicopters would be moved to Raleigh-Durham International Airport once the Chapel Hill airport closes. But university officials want to be able to open another airport in Orange County closer to UNC Hospitals.

Barry Jacobs, chairman of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, said he and his colleagues are concerned that the authority would have the power to take land by eminent domain. They want the bill to be tabled until officials can discuss the matter more.

"We ... believe that the bill undermines our land use plan and the very deliberate and inclusive efforts that our local governments and their residents have invested over many years to guide our community’s development," Jacobs wrote in a letter to area lawmakers.