Written by Richard Stradling, News & Observer
Raleigh-Durham International Airport wants to more than triple the size of its largest surface parking lot, expanding its remote parking capacity on forested land near Interstate 40. RDU plans to add about 8,700 spaces to Park Economy 3, the lot off National Guard Drive near the Sheetz gas station on Aviation Parkway. The lot now has 3,820 spaces, served by shuttle buses that carry passengers to and from the terminals. Airport officials will present their plans at a public workshop Monday evening, the start of a process to study the project’s potential impact on the environment. Some people have already raised concerns about the expansion because of the lot’s proximity to William B. Umstead State Park.
The expansion of Park Economy 3 was part of RDU’s 25-year master plan approved in 2016. The airport shelved the project and several others during the COVID-19 pandemic but has decided to revive it as air travel rebounds. RDU needs the expansion primarily to keep up with demand for parking, said Bill Sandifer, the airport’s chief operating officer. The number of passengers at RDU grew 56% in the decade just before the COVID-19 pandemic, and airport planners expect air travel to flourish again as the region’s economy and population grow.
The airport also expects to temporarily lose up to 2,500 of the 11,000 spaces it has between the terminals when it begins work on expanding Terminal 2 and building a new car rental and ground transportation complex near the parking decks. The first of that work is expected to begin in early 2025, Sandifer said. “It really is critical to get at least part of the expansion online by the end of 2024,” Sandifer said. “Because we’re going into construction on Terminal 2, and we’ve got to be able to provide that space for customers somewhere else so we don’t run out of parking.” Longer term, RDU also plans to close Park Economy 4, a remote parking lot with about 2,500 spaces north of the terminals. The airport expects to use that land to expand the air cargo complex at the north end of the main runway. While the loss of spaces between the terminals will be temporary, the elimination of Park Economy 4 would be permanent.
Park Economy 3 now covers about 36 acres surrounded by forest. The airport’s latest design calls for expanding the lot in three directions, for a total of 70 acres. It also includes covered waiting areas that may have video display monitors and Wi-Fi access, a building for parking and security staff and possibly restrooms for customers. A surface lot makes the most sense, Sandifer says, because the airport has the land and because construction is easier and about a fifth the cost of building a deck. “We call this lot ‘economy’ for a reason. Because it’s priced appropriately for the customer,” Sandifer said. “And if we go building a deck structure, I don’t think we can any longer call it an economy lot, because the price you’re going to have to charge to recover that investment will be significantly greater than it is today.”
Airport customers pay $11 a day at Park Economy 3, compared to $17 for Park Central in the main parking deck.
EXPANSION COULD IMPACT UMSTEAD STATE PARK The expansion would bring the lot closer to Umstead State Park and a planned 151-acre off-road cycling park on land Wake County is leasing from the airport. Jean Spooner, head of The Umstead Coalition, a park advocacy group, worries about felling trees and laying down pavement close to the park. “Ensuring a substantial forested buffer along our park boundary, we feel, is critical to protecting the park from visual, noise and water quality/quantity environmental impacts,” Spooner wrote in an email.
The coalition will press the airport to minimize the effects on the park, through the lot’s design and operation, including the handling of stormwater and the clearing of ice and snow. “Any proposed development that would impact Umstead State Park should have greater critical reviews and enhanced environmental protections,” Spooner wrote. Monday’s meeting is part of a new process developed by the airport to review the potential environmental impacts of construction projects and allow the public to weigh in.
The Environmental Compliance Review process, which RDU officials say is unique among airports nationwide, was requested by some Airport Authority members, including Wake County representative Ellis Hankins, who said he wanted to see “meaningful public participation” in airport development. Spooner says she’s pleased by the new process and hopes it’s not too late to have influence on the parking lot. “What has happened in the past is that the RDU Airport Authority has just told us what they decided,” she wrote. “We hope this changes with this project and there will be meaningful two-way dialog.”
The kickoff meeting is 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9, at the RDU Airport Authority building, 1000 Trade Drive, off Aviation Parkway. The Airport Authority will also accept written comments at email@example.com or by mail at RDUAA-Environmental Programs, P.O. Box 80001, RDU Airport, N.C. 27623. T
he public will get another chance to comment on the final environmental compliance report before it’s completed in June.
Read more on the News & Observer.
On November 21, 2022, the Wake County Commissioners approved a proposed new mountain bike trail park on a 151-acre tract known as “286 East” located to the east of Haley’s branch and to the west of the East Coast Greenway (aka Old Reedy Creek Road). Their proposal must be approved by the Raleigh Durham Airport Authority (RDUAA) Board at their upcoming December 15 meeting.
Wake County’s proposal includes:
We are shocked to report that there is a proposal on the agenda at the Wake County Commissioner's Work Session on Monday, November 14 at 2pm that advocates for RDU Quarry. See agenda item #6 "Lease for 286 Property" to read the proposal or download the PDF.
The proposal recommends using money from Wake Stone's RDU Quarry lease with the Raleigh Durham Airport Authority (RDUAA) so Wake County can "pay" for bike trails on a 150 acre track called "286 East." The 286 property is managed by the RDUAA and is located adjacent to Umstead State Park and the Reedy Creek Multi-Use Trail / East Coast Greenway.
We're excited to see Wake County consider leasing 286 from RDUAA and think with it could become a world-class facility that would draw both local mountain bikers and the many that would travel to ride this beautiful area.
Our biggest concern is the details of the proposed lease, specifically relying on Wake Stone for a $360,000 contribution each year. Wake Stone has been denied their mining permit to expand their quarry to the Odd Fellows Tract (currently in the appeal process and other related legal actions are active in the courts).
By accepting a yearly contribution from Wake Stone, it creates the appearance of a conflict of interest as long as the RDU Quarry expansion is undecided. Accepting this money might infer future favoritism to Wake Stone and a really bad idea while litigation is going on.
The proposed lease also mentions a second partner contributing $350,000 each year. This partner is currently unnamed. This partner needs to be named so the public can also weigh in on that relationship.
While we are encouraged to see that Wake County is also preparing to renew the Lake Crabtree County Park Lease, we remain concerned about RDUAA's state desire to convert Lake Crabtree to Commercial development. We are hopeful Wake County will keep Lake Crabtree Mountain Bike/ped trails and RDUAA will not move forward with their office/hotel development plan for that area.
Overall, we think Wake County mountain bike trails on "286 East" is a good idea for RDU and Wake County, but ONLY if the proposal removes the Wake Stone contributions.
Please submit your comments by 2pm, November 14. Email the Wake County Commissioners, Wake County appointees to the RDUAA, and Wake County staff requesting that they:
You can also use this form contact the Wake County Commissioners.
This post was updated on March 1, 2023
We would like to thank everyone for their continued efforts to prevent the proposed rock mine adjacent to William B. Umstead State Park and the East Coast Greenway (aka Old Reedy Creek Road). The Umstead Coalition has been hard at work to protect our Park. There are a lot of moving parts and changing dates, but we wanted to share some highlights of the current status.
We have learned that 9,500 Public Comments were submitted opposing the proposed quarry on the Odd Fellows Tract! DEQ characterized as "orders of magnitude" more than for other Mining Permit Applications. Great job all!
For simplicity we’ve split this summary into three parts: the RDU Quarry Mining Permit, Crabtree Creek bridge, and the Sunset Clause. We organized each section into a timeline so you can easily get caught up.
Be prepared, take a deep breath — it’s a mind boggling read — and this is just the highlights.
RDU Quarry Mining Permit
DEQ denies Wake Stone’s mining permit application (February 2022)
NC Department of Environmental Quality-Division of Energy, Minerals and Land Resources (DEQ-DEMLR) denied the Mining Permit Application from Wake Stone Corporation on February 17, 2022, partly due to the adverse effects on William B. Umstead State Park and the thousands of public comments. Wake Stone proposed to dramatically change their current quarry operations south of Crabtree Creek by substantially decreasing the protective buffers along the Park and Crabtree Creek and dramatically increasing the number of noisy quarry trucks near our Park boundary.
Wake Stone also proposed a new 400-foot deep pit on the Odd Fellows Tract on the north side of Crabtree Creek with only a 25 feet buffer along the Park, East Coast Greenway, and residential adjacent properties. Check out our renderings to see what it will look like. The Odd Fellows Tract is public property owned by the Counties of Wake and Durham and the Cities of Raleigh and Durham, managed by the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority (RDUAA).
Wake Stone files an appeal of the mining permit denial (March 2022)
On March 14, 2022, Wake Stone filed an Appeal of the Mining Permit Denial with the NC Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). This is where Appeals of State Agency decisions are filed and it runs like a court. The Chief Administrative Law Judge Donald R. van der Vaart at OAH assigned himself to this case. Van der Vaart previously served as Secretary of DEQ from 2015 to 2017 appointed by Governor McCrory. Read more about van der Vaart here and here. The NC Attorney General (AG) has assigned attorneys to defend DEQ’s Mining Permit Denial at OAH. The AG’s office duties include defending the Decisions issued by State Agencies.
The Umstead Coalition and private resident file motions to “Intervene.” Judge denies the motions (March 2022)
The Umstead Coalition (March 21, 2022) and an adjacent private resident filed separate motions to “Intervene” to join the AG in defending the Mining Permit Denial. If we had been allowed to be an intervening party, The Umstead Coalition and residents would have participated in the Discovery, experts and Trial proceedings. The AG did not object, Wake Stone objected and Judge van der Vaart denied our motions to Intervene. Oddly, the judge said The Umstead Coalition could submit an Amicus Brief and the residents could Appeal the Mining Permit when issued. This case held its first hearing on September 27, 2022 to argue the other sides case should be dismissed. The judge ruled against the Motions to Dismiss the Case and ordered a Contested Trial be held. The Contested Trial was held the weeks of February 13 and 20.
The Umstead Coalition files motions to overturn Judge’s denial and to “Stay” or delay the Mining Permit trial (June 2022)
The Umstead Coalition and the private residents filed motions in Wake County Superior Court to overturn Judge van der Vaart’s denial of our motions to Intervene. See below - we had a Court Hearing on October 14, 2022 in Wake County Superior Court on this request. The Wake County Superior Court judge ruled that we need to wait until the OAH has it's final ruling to ask again to Intervene.
We also filed motions at OAH to “Stay” or delay the Permit trial until our case to Intervene could be heard at Wake County Superior Court. Administrative Law Judge van der Vaart denied our “Motion to Stay” on June 17, 2022. That means unless the Wake County Superior Court overturns the OAH’s denial, we can not fully participate in the quarry permit denial case at OAH.
Wake Stone failed to provide documents requested by the AG (August 2022)
In a “Motion to Compel” filed August 24, 2022 by the AG, we learned that Wake Stone has refused to fully provide Discovery documents requested by the AG. The AG requested “documents pertaining to estimates of production and reserves of stone from Wake Stone’s existing Triangle Quarry.”
These documents are related to the noise model inputs and other statements made by Wake Stone to justify their expanded operations on their existing site and the new pit on the other side of Crabtree Creek. Wake Stone apparently told the AG that these documents are “irrelevant or sensitive”.
For instance, Wake Stone unilaterally redacted a memo titled, “Triangle Quarry Expansion Meeting Update and Questions from January 6th Meeting.” In another example, the AG’s office asked to view hard copies of Wake Stone’s files. Wake Stone sent the AG a photo of the full filing cabinet, when the AG’s representative went to view the files, they noted approximately 75% of the files had been removed and papers had been removed from the remaining files.
The Attorney General’s office concluded “As of this date, the Division does not know how many documents Wake Stone has improperly withheld.” The filing is an interesting read, spelled out in clear legal detail. It’s available via this link.
On September 6, Administrative Law Judge van der Vaart denied the Motion to Compel (Wake Stone to produce the requested Discovery documents).
Hearing for Wake Stone’s Request to Overturn Denial of RDU Quarry Mining Permit scheduled (held September 27, 2022)
On September 6, 2022, Administrative Law Judge van der Vaart issued a new ruling. His new ruling replaced a previously scheduled contested case hearing (e.g., trial where both sides can present their case) with a Hearing to hear Wake Stone’s request to just overturn DEQ’s Denial (Motion for Summary Judgment). The Hearing on Wake Stone’s motion was heard at OAH on September 27. The Judge asked for each side to submit what they think the noise levels would be within Umstead State Park and draft orders for him to consider issuing.
November 28, 2022: OAH Judge van der Vaart issued an order to proceed with a "hearing on the merits." The Trial has held the weeks of February 14-16 and Feb 20-23, 2023 (2 weeks). This contested Hearing included witnesses each side could more fully present their case with witnesses. The Umstead Coalition has not been allowed to intervene, but did submit an Amicus Brief.
UPDATE: The Main Quarry Permit Trial ended on Thursday, February 23, 2023. Next, the trial transcripts will be sent to the AG and Wake Stone's attorneys. The Attorney will write a Brief summarizing their case within 20 days of the receipt of the transcripts. Within 30 days of the transcripts receipt, each side will prepare a draft Order (aka Ruling) they would proposed the OAH Administrative Law Judge van der Vaart to consider. Sometime after, the Judge will issue his order. This means, we would expect a Ruling in April or May.
Once the OAH issues a Final Ruling on Wake Stone’s request to overturn DEQ’s Denial of their Mining Permit Application, the losing party(ies) have the option to appeal that ruling in Wake County Superior Court.
Hearing for Intervention case (held October 2022)
The Hearing before Judge Rozier at the Wake County Superior Court for our request to Intervene to support the denial of the quarry permit was held on October 14. Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) filed an Amicus Brief in our support. Big thanks to our supporters who attended!
We were optimistic because a similar case was before the Wake County Superior Court filed by the NC Farm Bureau Federation, Inc and on June 20, 2022 Superior Court Judge Mark A. Sternlicht overturned Administrative Law Judge van der Vaart’s Denial to Intervene, allowing the parties to Intervene (but this was after a final ruling out of AOH).
Judge Rozier ruled that we need to wait until a final ruling from OAH to ask to Intervene. We firmly believe we should have the right to Intervene at OAH and assist the AG with upholding the Mining Permit Denial.
To truck overburden (the soil above the rock) and rock from the proposed new pit on the Odd Fellows Tract to the existing Triangle Quarry, Wake Stone has proposed a massive, 60-foot wide bridge over Crabtree Creek just upstream of Foxcroft Lake and William B. Umstead State Park. Associated with this bridge is widening haul roads decreasing the protective buffers along Crabtree Creek on the existing quarry side and the routing of all those noisy trucks along the current boundary area with William B. Umstead State Park.
DEQ granted Neuse Buffer Authorization. The Umstead Coalition Appealed this decision (June 2020)
The proposed bridge requires a “Neuse Buffer Authorization” (to destroy riparian buffers along Crabtree Creek) from DEQ-Division of Water Resources (DEQ-DWR). You may recall DEQ issued such an Authorization on June 4, 2020 and The Umstead Coalition Appealed due to lack of alternatives that would avoid and minimize impacts, as required by the Neuse Buffer Rules. In this case, the AG office was defending DEQ’s Decision of approval.
Neuse Buffer Authorization overturned by Judge (September 2021)
Administrative Law Judge Byrne ruled (September 27, 2021) in our favor and overturned the Authorization for the bridge; no Neuse Buffer Authorization, no bridge.
Wake Stone submitted a new application for Neuse Buffer Authorization (October 2021)
Wake Stone reapplied on October 13, 2021 with a new Application to DEQ, but submitted the SAME bridge location and design — you read that correctly, Wake Stone submitted the same bridge location and design for the Authorization that had been overturned by the judge.
DEQ granted Neuse Buffer Authorization again (February 2022)
DEQ again issued the Neuse Buffer Authorization on February 10, 2022, in our opinion, failing again to follow the Neuse Buffer Rules.
The Umstead Coalition filed Appeal about the Authorization (April 2022)
The Umstead Coalition filed an Appeal at OAH on April 11, 2022 and, for this round, Administrative Law Judge van der Vaart has assigned himself to the case. Shortly afterwards, the Judge filed a motion to limit the scope of our Appeal to only the width of the bridge. Wake Stone declined to file a motion to Intervene. The Umstead Coalition has retained engineer experts in support of our Appeal.
Hearing (October 2022)
On October 11, our first Office of Administration Hearings (OAH) Hearing was held on our Appeal of the Neuse Buffer Authorization (to destroy riparian buffers) for Wake Stone's proposed bridge over Crabtree Creek. This Hearing was set in response of the State's motion to dismiss our Appeal. Thanks to those who attended in support!
We are happy to report that the OAH Judge van der Vaart issued a ruling on October 18, 2022 related to our ability to continue our Appeal. He has overturned his previous Order that narrowed the scope to only the width of the proposed bridge and he ordered a contested trial. We have experts who can present evidence regarding alternatives to avoid and minimize the impacts to the Riparian Buffers.
UPDATE: The Contested Trial, with witnesses, for the Bridge Authorization was held January 24-26 and February 7-7, 2023. Attorneys for The Umstead Coalition and DEQ will receive the trial transcripts, then draft a proposed Order (aka Ruling) they proposed the Judge issue. The Judge will then issue his Order at a date of his choosing, likely sometime in April or May.
Note: To justify the wide bridge, Wake Stone claims in their Neuse Buffer Application that 440 quarry trucks per day would cross this bridge (and travel along our Park boundaries). Just think of the noise!
The current Wake Stone Triangle Quarry adjacent to William B. Umstead State Park had their original Mining Permit 92‐10 approved in 1981 with a 50-year Sunset Clause. After 50 years, in 2031, Wake Stone was to give the State Park the right to have the quarry donated to the State and all mining operations would cease. If the Sunset Clause is restored, RDU Quarry cannot happen.
Mining Permit language changed and 50-year Sunset Clause removed without public input (March 2018)
Although we did not learn until some time after, in March 2018, DEQ-DEMLR issued a Modified Mining Permit for Wake Stone’s current Triangle Quarry. The major changes involved the removal of the 50-year Sunset Clause and severe reductions in the protective buffer width and characteristics along Crabtree Creek and William B. Umstead State Park.
The Umstead Coalition files lawsuit requesting the 2018 Mining Permit Modifications be revoked (July 2022)
The Umstead Coalition found public records (e.g., State Archives of DEQ’s mining files) and submitted numerous public documents supporting our contention that these changes were made in error and were told by the State that this issue was under review. However, with the mining permit expansions in various appeals and lack of action by the AG on this issue, we felt we had no choice but to file a lawsuit on July 13, 2022 at the Wake County Superior Court to request the 2018 Mining Permit Modifications be revoked.
Named parties in the lawsuit request delay (September 2022)
The named parties, Wake Stone Corporation and DEQ, requested a delay until September 19 to respond to our court filing. Both filed motions to dismiss our case.
UPDATE: A Hearing date to hear these motions to dismiss (and determine if we can proceed to a contested case trial) was heard on March 1, 2023 in Wake County Superior Court. We are waiting the judge's decision.
As you can see, preserving this precious public asset for the area’s current and future citizens requires a multi-pronged effort. The challenges we face are many and diverse. Park protection and expansion is necessary to maintain a healthy wilderness destination. We’re fortunate to have so many devoted volunteers, contributing thousands of hours of their time toward this ongoing effort.
Please help us continue this fight. You can help us by donating now.
Keep up the public pressure:
We believe DEQ must restore the Sunset Clause, which means that RDU Quarry cannot happen. Ask DEQ, with cc'ed to elected officials to restore the Sunset Clause and shut down Triangle Quarry as promised by 2031. We've created talking points and an easy way for you to submit your comments directly to Governor Cooper and local elected officials at one time.
Keep your Stop RDU Quarry yard sign up
Thank you for your continued support!
On July 13, 2022 the Umstead Coalition, a citizen organization dedicated to protecting William B. Umstead State Park, filed a lawsuit to restore the 50-year Sunset Clause that was a condition of the Triangle Quarry approval in 1981. The Triangle Quarry is located on the south side of Crabtree Creek and adjacent to William B. Umstead State Park.
The Umstead Coalition filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Petition for Writ of Certiorari in Wake County Superior Court. We have asked the Court to reverse the Modification issued by the NC Department of Environmental Quality-Division of Energy, Minerals and Land Resources (DEQ-DEMLR) on March 26, 2018 for Mining Permit 92-10 Triangle Quarry. We are requesting the 92-10 Mining Permit be restored to the December 2017 Permit.
The Mining Permit conditions we are requesting to be restored include:
Restore the 50-year Sunset Clause that Wake Stone agreed to and was a condition included in the original Mining Permit on May 13, 1981 and eight subsequent Permit Renewals and Modifications through December 1, 2017. The Sunset Clause gave the State the “right to acquire the quarry site at the end of 50 years or 10 years after quarrying operations have ceased, whichever is sooner.” (The March 26, 2018 Mining Permit Modification requested by Wake Stone changed “sooner” to “later” effectively eliminating the Sunset Clause that had been in effect for 37 years and counted upon by NC State Parks.)
Restore the measurement of the width of protective buffers along Crabtree Creek to be measured from the top of stream bank. (The March 26, 2018 Mining Permit Modification requested by Wake Stone changed the width to be measured from the centerline of Crabtree Creek, effectively gutting the protective stream buffers by 230,000 to 280,000 square feet.)
Restore the Buffer labels in the Site Plan to the previous 2011 Site Plan to specify “Undisturbed Vegetated Buffer.” (The March 26, 2018 Mining Permit Modification requested by Wake Stone changed the Site Plan labels to “Buffer from Property Boundary.”)
Restore Buffer Conditions 3.C and 3.D in the Permit narrative explicitly stating “buffer zone was to be maintained between any mining activity and Crabtree Creek.” (The March 26, 2018 Mining Permit Modification requested by Wake Stone removed the protective language in the permit language issued by DEQ and replaced it with just a reference to Wake Stone’s Site Plan. This effectively degraded the protective nature of the buffers.)
The Umstead Coalition has reluctantly made this filing. We would prefer to resolve this out of court, but at this juncture we felt we had no other choice. Over the last two years, we have provided DEQ-DEMLR and the Attorney General (AG) with numerous materials we have found in the State and County Archives that clearly document the 2018 Mining Permit Modifications were made in error and requested they be revoked.
We invite DEQ or the AG to resolve this issue and restore the vital protections to William B. Umstead State Park.
Dr. Jean Spooner, Chair of The Umstead Coalition, “requests the NC Department of Environmental Quality restore the Sunset Clause and Crabtree Creek buffers on the existing Triangle Quarry to protect William B. Umstead State Park. These are conditions the public has long expected to be upheld.”
The Umstead Coalition has been a leading voice opposing Wake Stone’s plan to build a new private quarry pit on the publicly-owned Odd Fellows Tract on the north side of Crabtree Creek and also adjacent to North Carolina’s William B. Umstead State Park. The private company has pursued a new quarry on public property managed by the RDU Airport Authority only 25 feet from the border with William B. Umstead State Park, the East Coast Greenway (Old Reedy Creek Road Recreational Corridor), and a private residence. In February 2022, DEQ-DEMLR correctly denied Wake Stone’s request to put a quarry pit on the Odd Fellows Tract. Wake Stone has appealed that decision.
The original 1981 Triangle quarry permit for the current quarry was approved over the objections of DEQ regulators and State Parks only after Wake Stone agreed to certain conditions intended to protect William B. Umstead State Park and guaranteed an end date for quarry operations.
The Umstead Coalition’s Court filing can be found at the Wake County Superior Court (Case Number 22 CV 8638), or download via this link. Additional information about this important issue may be found at: umsteadcoalition.org/Mining-Permit.
View a PDF of this press release.
Submit comments about the Sunset Clause to Governor Cooper and local elected officials>>
May 9, 2022 - NC Senator Wiley Nickel calls on Governor Cooper to continue to oppose the Permit and reinstate the Sunset Clause. Read Senator Wiley's letter>>
Wake Stone Corporation has filed an Appeal to the NC Administrative Hearings Office.
The filing claims their proposed new quarry pit on the Odd Fellows Tract will not have an "Significant adverse effect on William B. Umstead State Park" and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) errored with Permit Application denial. You can read their submitted Appeal here.
To this we say — Wake Stone is wrong - DEQ's Permit Application Denial is the right decision — the private company's proposal to put heavy industrial mining operations along the East Coast Greenway and 25ft from a private residence and William B. Umstead State Park, would indeed have "Significant Adverse Effects."
What's next? Wake Stone has now triggered a long, drawn out legal battle with multiple court proceedings with all those legal trimmings. The NC Attorney General's (AG) Office attorneys will lead the defense of DEQ's Denial. Wake Stone has hired their own lawyers. The Umstead Coalition will continue to be actively involved in the fight! We are confident that the proposed quarry operations on public lands immediately adjacent to State protected recreational lands will NOT happen, but Wake Stone has chosen pursue this folly. So, we fight on.
Written by Lisa Sorg, NC Policy Watch
This is a developing story.
The NC Department of Environmental Quality has denied a mining permit for a controversial quarry next to the 5,600-acre Umstead State Park in Raleigh, citing “significantly adverse effects” from “noise, visual and truck traffic impacts” that would interfere with the park’s purpose.
The proposed quarry has been contentious since 2019, when Wake Stone leased the “Odd Fellows tract” from the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority. Quarry opponents unsuccessfully fought the legality of the lease in court, but have relentlessly pressured state officials to reject the mining permit.
Wake Stone planned to timber 105 acres of the Odd Fellows tract, and use 45 of it as a rock quarry. The company would have blasted a pit 40 stories deep to extract the materials, then crush and sell them for road-building and other uses. While Wake Stone agreed to invest millions of dollars in adjacent natural areas and mountain bike trails, the mining could have continued for 25 years or more.
The person answering the phone at Wake Stone’s corporate headquarters said the company’s public relations firm would be issuing a statement. Update Feb. 18 : The News & Observer quoted Wake Stone president Samuel Bratton as saying the company would appeal the decision. An administrative law judge would hear such an appeal.
Jean Spooner of the Umstead Coalition, a citizens’ group that fought the quarry, said “it was the right decision by the state.”
Umstead State Park is one of the most popular in central North Carolina, with 1.1 million visitors last year, according to the state Division of Parks and Recreation. Areas immediately surrounding it “have experienced tremendous growth,” according to a DEQ summary of its decision, which demonstrates not only the importance of the park but also its “sensitivity to outside development pressures.”
The Mining Act of 1971 requires the Division of Energy, Minerals and Land Resources to consider seven criteria in approving or denying a permit. In a written summary justifying its decision, DEMLR noted an increase in noise levels, even with the construction of a sound barrier wall, would be unacceptable. Likewise, parts of the quarry operation would remain visible from the park, as would the sound barrier wall. The proposed expansion would also add truck traffic and create safety hazards for park-goers, the document read.
Spooner told Policy Watch that the proposed quarry would have also disrupted wildlife corridors and aquatic life in Crabtree Creek. There were also concerns about the affects of the blasting on the Dunn residence near the park entrance on Reedy Creek Road. That house is on a private drinking water well, which could have also been affected by the quarry operations, which in general pump millions of gallons of water from the pits and can draw down aquifers.
Wake Stone has operated another quarry near the park since 1980; that too, proved controversial. State environmental regulars denied the permit, also based on adverse effects to the purposes of the Park, but the Mining Commission overruled the department, and the permit was issued in 1981.
Read the article on NC Policy Watch>>
Written by Jason deBruyn, WUNC
A group of Umstead Park supporters on Friday cheered a decision by the Department of Environmental Quality to deny a quarry permit application by Wake Stone that would have expanded the company's operation at a site near the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
"It was the right decision," said Jean Spooner, chairwoman of the Umstead Coalition board of directors, which has vocally opposed the quarry's expansion. "The current quarry has exhibited substantial adverse impacts on the park in the years it's existed there."
Still, the ruling likely doesn't write the last chapter of this more than six-years-long saga as Wake Stone has already signaled an intent to appeal the ruling.
Leading up to the ruling, the DEQ Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources held two public hearings and considered thousands of comments from public stakeholders. It denied the application because it ruled that a new quarry would negatively impact the park.
"The proposed quarry is located and designed such that normal operation would have significantly adverse effects on the purposes of the park through noise, visual, and traffic impacts," according to the ruling.
Wake Stone has operated a quarry on property it owns alongside Interstate 40 just northwest of the Harrison Road exit. It wants to expand quarry operations to property generally referred to as the "Oddfellows" site owned jointly by Wake and Durham counties and by Raleigh and Durham and overseen by the Raleigh-Durham AirportAuthority, which agreed to lease the land to Wake Stone for the quarry expansion.
The Umstead Coalition has opposed the expansion citing environmental concerns, as well as, negative quality of life impacts on park-goers.
Below is the official statement from NC DEQ:
State issues denial of Wake Stone quarry modification
Raleigh - Feb 17, 2022
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Energy, Mineral, and Land Resources (DEMLR) has denied a requested modification of Wake Stone Corporation's Permit 92-10, for the Triangle Quarry located adjacent to William B. Umstead State Park. The denied modification request included the proposed expansion of mining operations, including the construction of a new pit at the Wake County location.
After a comprehensive technical evaluation process, which included two public hearings and consideration of thousands of comments from the public and stakeholders, DEMLR denied the application based on information that indicates the proposed operation would have a significantly adverse effect on the purposes of a publicly owned park, forest or recreation area.
The staff of the DEMLR Mining Program reviewed the permit application, submitted April 8, 2020, and all supplemental information filed after the initial application. Public hearings were held on the application on June 23 and July 7, 2020.
Read the denial summary here, and see other documents on the DEQ website.
The Umstead Coalition is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
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