Q. I've heard about RDU Quarry. What's going on?
A. The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority (RDUAA) signed a “mineral lease” to Wake Stone Corporation, a private rock quarry company, on March 1, 2019 with 48-hour public notice. The proposed contract to sell mineral property would allow Wake Stone to create a new rock quarry pit within a 105 acre tract adjacent to William B. Umstead State Park and Old Reedy Creek Road. The tract is referred to as the “Odd Fellows Tract.”
Q. Who owns the land that is planned for the new quarry?
A. The Odd Fellows Tract, 105 acres adjacent to Umstead State Park, is publicly owned land and deeded to the four local governments: City of Raleigh, City of Durham, Wake County and Durham County. View the deeds here:
Q. I thought RDU owned the land?
A. No, RDU manages the land for the four local government owners. The NC legislation that establishes the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority (RDUAA) identifies the “owning municipalities” of the RDU Airport to be the Cities of Raleigh and Durham and the Counties of Wake and Durham.
Q. What's the issue?
A. NC Law requires the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority (RDUAA) to obtain permission from municipal owners to sell real property. The owning governments per NC Statute are the Cities of Durham and Raleigh and Counties of Durham and Wake.
N.C. General Statute §63-56(f) states that “no real property and no airport, other air navigation facility, or air protection privilege, owned jointly, shall be disposed of by the board (i.e. RDUAA), by sale, or otherwise, except by authority of the appointed governing bodies, but the board may lease space, area or improvements and grant concessions on airports for aeronautical purposes or purposes incidental thereto.”
A for-profit, commercial quarry is not an aeronautical purpose nor is it of incidental aeronautical purpose. Precedent for the requirement to obtain the owning municipalities vote can be found in the RDUAA and City of Raleigh minutes as well as recorded timber deeds which clearly document the required City and County approval for the sale of RDU timber. If it applies to a renewable resource like timber why not the commercial sale of non-renewable rock and soil?
Q. I heard the FAA said that RDU cannot sell the Odd Fellows Tract, is that right?
That is not correct. According to Elliot Black, Director FAA Office of Airport Planning, FAA grant obligations and rules do not prohibit the sale of land for non-aeronautical purposes. In fact, the FAA has a review process for land sales with provisions that sale price is “fair market value” and the proceeds be used for airport purposes.
Read the three letters from the FAA to the Umstead Coalition and RDU here.
Q. Doesn't RDU say their agreement with Wake Stone is a lease not a sale?
A. It is a sale, not a lease. The RDU “mineral lease” is a lease in name only. It is a contract with the sole purpose of allowing Wake Stone Corporation, a private business, to remove and sell public property (soil, rock) on the open market. The mineral rights would be conveyed from the public owners of the land to a private rock quarry company to sell. Permanent removal of the forest, top soil, and rock would occur — truck load by truck load. It is estimated the quarry operations would generate 500 truckloads a day!
It is not comparable to a land lease for a hotel or gas station, as neither sell government property as a business model. In a normal land lease, the property is returned to the landlord at the end of the term and can be used for another purpose. In this case, the only thing which will be returned is a liability, a large pit with net negative value. It will not be able to be reused. This pit will be very dangerous with steep slopes, and will require a fence to keep everyone out.
Q. I heard there's a lawsuit. What's the basis of the lawsuit?
The Umstead Coalition, Triangle Off-road Cyclists (TORC), Randy and Tamara Dunn (adjacent landowners) and Bill Doucette (Wake County and City of Raleigh resident) have filed a lawsuit against the RDUAA and Wake Stone Corporation. Our main requests are:
Q. Has Wake Stone started to create the new quarry yet?
A. No. Wake Stone must first apply for a mining permit from the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources. We anticipate the mining permit application to be submitted sometime in the first half of 2020.
Q. I've seen a new road installed, trees cleared and trucks by the Odd Fellows Tract. What's going on?
A. In January 2020, Wake Stone got a permit from NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) to install wells for ground water monitoring. The monitoring will go on for 4-7 weeks.
Q. Don't we need the rock for future development?
Our complaint is not against mining, but the decision to move forward with the quarry without the four local government-owners approval. There are already eight mines in operation in the Triangle area to support the development needs of this growing region:
Q. I heard there was an offer to buy the land and add it to Umstead State Park. What happened to that offer?
A. The Conservation Fund offered to purchase the Odd Fellows Tract for market value and combine it with Umstead State Park, for single-track bicycle/pedestrian trails. RDU AA often cites the lease as providing $24M in revenue. However, that figure never appears in the lease! Wake Stone only guarantees $8.5M, payments are back-loaded, and only have a present value of $4.6M. This is nearly $2M less than the Conservation Fund cash offer of $6.46M to purchase the land. Even if best case mineral production estimates are achieved, RDU will earn less than 1% of the $2B they project is needed to fund the Vision2040 plan. Meanwhile, Wake Stone stands to make over $430M from the sale of minerals they extract from our public property. Here is a cash flow analysis comparing the options.
View the offer from the Conservation Fund here. Learn more about the offer in this video of Bill Holman from the Conservation Fund:
Q. Won’t a quarry bring in economic development to the area?
A. A quarry in this central location in the Triangle is counter to the economic development of the region — destroying the very recreational assets our residents and employees value and enjoy. Knowledge workers are the engine that drives the economy of the Triangle, and they highly value outdoor recreation — convenient and close — in such a central place.
Watch this timelapse video to see the development in the Triangle region from 1984 to 2016. You can see how precious our remaining greenspace is and why it's so important to protect Umstead State Park.
Q. I heard that should the quarry happen, after several years it will be turned into a beautiful park, so it seems like a win-win?
A. The Wake Stone Corporation conceptual drawings are misleading and portray the quarry afterlife as a pretty lake, but that is unlikely. Because of very limited ground water recharge to the pit (as is the case at the existing Wake Stone quarry), the only source of water to fill the pit would be polluted stormwater runoff, with no flushing ability. The top edges of both pits are far higher than the elevation of Crabtree Creek. The result would be a polluted pit of water inaccessible to the public due to the large vertical rock face down to water.
RDUAA and Wake Stone are proposing to mine the Odd Fellows Tract for 25-35 plus years, then donate some of the land to Wake County or State Parks, and make it a greenway connection. This proposal is not only unrealistic, but also undesirable. A new quarry pit would destroy the natural beauty of the Odd Fellows Tract, permanently destroy the dense hardwood forest and rolling terrain, pollute the waters and leave the community with an unwanted second pit (a permanent liability).
Q. What will be the environmental impacts of the quarry?
A. RDUAA and Wake Stone have not, and do not plan, to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). See more about the health and environmental impacts of the quarry here.
The current forested watershed (Odd Fellows Tract) provides water quality and flood control protections for Crabtree Creek. Wake Stone is promoting a limited forested buffer and a berm around the perimeter of the new quarry pit. A buffer less than 250’ is not nearly enough to protect the beauty and experience of the Old Reedy Creek recreation corridor nor the border with Umstead State Park. The current Wake Stone quarry pit has much larger buffers between it and neighboring recreational areas.
Wake Stone also has a history of polluting Crabtree Creek with their current quarry. Here more about that in this video:
Learn more about the impact quarries have on air quality in this video of Liz Adams, a Research Associate at the UNC Institute for the Environment:
Q. What is the 50-year Sunset Clause?
A. The current Wake Stone quarry adjacent to Umstead State Park had their original mining permit approved in 1981 with a 50-year Sunset Clause. After 50 years, in 2031, Wake Stone was to donate the land to the State and all mining operations would cease. Upon Public Records examination of the Permit files for Mining Permit 92‐10 on November 6, 2018, The Umstead Coaliton discovered an unexpected and disturbing Permit Modification to Permit 92‐10 that was made by an internal “administrative text change.” The change that was made by DEQ staff to the December 2017 permit was substantial, not a clerical correction, and results in detrimental effects to Umstead State Park and an effectively allows an indefinite expansion of quarry operations. We are advocating for the 50-year Sunset Clause to be reinstated. Read more here.
Q. What is the RDU Forest Village Concept?
A. RDU Forest Village is a unique opportunity to create a world class recreation destination that would attract visitors and generate revenue for RDU. The RDU Forest Village Concept is a coherent development with a focus on sustainability and offers a model for the future of environmentally-centered commercial development. Read more about our vision here.
Q. I'd like to watch the 400 Feet Down film. Do I have to pay to watch it?
A. No, it's free. You can watch 400 Feet Down here.
Q. Who do I contact about setting up a local screening of 400 Feet Down?
A. We've had five local screenings of 400 Feet Down and would love to have more. Please email us.
Q. How can I help fight the quarry?
A. There are a number of ways you can help. See the quick actions you can take now to help protect our public lands here.
Q. How can I keep up with what's happening?
A. There are a lot of ways to stay up-to-date:
Q. Is the fence necessary for airport security?
A. No. RDU already has a similar fence closer in to airport functions that can be easily monitored. RDU at a meeting December 19, 2019 clearly stated the fence is purposed to stop trespassing. You can see a portion of the current security fence (yellow) in this image (proposed new 8.3 miles of fencing in red):
Q. Is the fence necessary to stop mountain bike “trespassing”?
A. No. A much cheaper solution would be for RDUAA to enforce the trespass law and trespassing would cease. BUT, the better solution is for RDUAA to partner with NC State Parks and Wake County Commissioners to enable LEGAL trails on "286" and the connected Umstead State Park.
Q. Does mountain bike use of RDU land harmful?
A. No, but a quarry is about the most destructive use of land. In fact, RDU has encouraged mountain bike use of the forested lands near Umstead State Park and Old Reedy Creek Road to discourage homeless encampment and leases forested land for mountain biking as part of Wake County Crabtree Lake Park. RDU’s mineral lease for the quarry may also allows mountain bike use on lot 286.
Q, How is RDU paying for the $2.4 million fence?
A. These funds are generated from the revenue expected from the quarry lease. The fence costs are nearly 50% of the present net value of all the quarry revenues over the next 25 to 35 years in excess of the cash sale price offered by the Conservation Fund's $6.4 million offer. RDU’s decision to quarry and not sell the Odd Fellows tract results in a net present value gain of only $ 2.6 million for the airport. These funds will be needed not for airport operation but instead for long-term property care once Wake Stone abandons the 400-ft quarry pit. There is no net-benefit for airport operations.
Q. Why does RDU really want to install a fence with no useful purpose?
A. RDU wants local governments that own the land to pay for the use of its vacant land. The price for lot 286 is $360,000 per year. In 2017 Wake County decided that it would not pay rent to use land it already owns and for which RDU has no use. Perhaps the fence is really intended 1) to pressure local governments to pay up and/or 2) retribution against the outdoor recreation community that is challenging RDU’s decisions both in court and the political arena and/or 3) try to "get around" the NC Mining Law and illegally try to start "mining" activities. RDU believes it has no responsibility to serving the greater public good of the Research Triangle communities beyond operation of the airport runways.
what you can do
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