Both Umstead Park and RDU are critical to the continued success of our Region. But I firmly believe the Wake Stone quarry expansion should proceed.
In my experience as a former mayor of Raleigh, it is not uncommon to have community debate surrounding the changes that take place as a community grows and prospers. Rarely is there a new road or project built where some feel that the positives don’t outweigh the negatives. There are two valid sides to most arguments. I try hard to understand both sides of an issue.
Recently, the RDU Airport Authority entered into a lease with Wake Stone to mine 105 acres of land owned by the Authority in return for royalties on the sale of crushed stone from the site. The public process that led to this decision spanned two years and extensive negotiation between the parties.
On balance I believe the result is positive for our region. First, RDU receives much-needed income to finance its growth. Second, area citizens receive mountain biking trails on an adjoining 150-acre site and ultimately more.
I was pleased to see that a proposal was generated to meet both recreational interests and also keep up with the expanding needs of our airport. RDU, because of the strong economy of our area, is one of the fastest growing airports in the country. The Research Triangle continues to attract talented people and companies in pursuit of that talent. We need a thriving airport.
I believe it is clear that final approval of the lease is by the Airport Authority. It does not require an additional approval by the governing bodies that own the airport (City of Durham, Durham County, City of Raleigh, Wake County). As a former chair of the Airport Authority, I appreciate the wisdom shown by the NC General Assembly when it created the organization in 1939. There are eight board members (two appointed by each owner) assuring that there is a direct connection between airport governance and their respective communities. The Airport Authority voted unanimously to approve the lease.
Some concerns have been raised regarding the impact of having a quarry adjacent to Umstead Park. I believe these concerns can be properly mitigated. (I have used the Park myself and have driven by the Harrison Avenue entrance often and never notice the quarry’s presence yet it has been operating there the past 38 years.)
I have known and respected the Wake Stone owners for many years. In addition to being good operators, they have been proactive in protecting and supporting Umstead Park. They have an exemplary record of both community service and environmental stewardship as they conduct a business essential to our region’s growth.
We should commend our Airport Authority for finding an approach that makes a responsible fiscal and community use of this land.
Smedes York is the former mayor of Raleigh, a former board member of the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority. He currently is the chairman of McDonald York Co. in Raleigh.
Triangle Business Journal-September 26, 2019
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