Written by Liz Adams, Research Associate at the UNC Institute for the Environment
The development of a quarry on public land by RDU Airport Authority is more than a local issue, there are state and federal policies and regulations that constrain how this public-purpose land may be developed.
The East Coast Greenway bisects the public land that is managed by the airport, and is a 3,000-mile spine route, from Key West north to the Canadian border in Maine.
RDU Airport Authority did not consult with the local governments who own the land, nor the neighboring municipalities of Cary and Morrisville, the State Park System, NC-DOT (owner of this segment of the East Coast Greenway), or FAA prior to signing the lease for the quarry.
In their effort to “secure this public-purpose land”, RDU Airport Authority also designed and applied for permits to build a 2 million dollar (18 mile long, 8 ft tall barbed wire) fence that would cut-off access to Umstead State Park for users of this trail. RDU Airport Authority stated the purpose of the fence was to “Protect Wake Stone” from vandalism and “environmental damage” from off-road cyclists. They falsely represented the true purpose of the fence, which was to accelerate the development of the quarry on the Odd Fellows Tract.
The East Coast Greenway runs from Maine to Florida, but it relies on local governments to ensure that adjacent land uses are compatible with the trail.
RDU Airport Authority is a municipal corporation that has zoning and eminent domain power equivalent to cities. Yet, they have established no zoning board of adjustment, special use or public hearing policies.
Where is RDU Airport Authority’s policy on multi-jurisdictional planning to ensure compatibility of the quarry with the municipalities that border their jurisdiction? Wake County has both a Comprehensive Plan and an Umstead Planning District that the quarry is incompatible with. Isn’t joint planning a requirement that must be followed by all municipal corporations (towns, cities, counties, and municipal corporations) including the RDU Airport Authority? The Towns of Cary and Morrisville have plans for high density development in the headwaters of Crabtree Creek that make this expansion of the quarry especially problematic.
Five thousand people per day have been reported using the Umstead State Park Trail System during the COVID-19 pandemic. More and more people will be moving into this area to live in the high-density multi-family apartments that are in the current development pipeline.
We need effective joint cross-jurisdictional urban planning to protect the East Coast Greenway and provide safe entryways into Umstead State Park. RDU Airport Authority must preserve access to recreational uses of public land that was taken for a public purpose. Doing so will promote the health and welfare of our citizens who rely on safe access to Umstead State Park and the recreational corridor that surrounds it.
Density of Apartments in 2018. High Density Development is increasing near entrances to Umstead https://www.socialexplorer.com/c03106fdcc/view
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