RDU board vote allows nearby quarry to expand

March 2, 2019

The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority board voted Friday to lease part of the airport’s property to Wake Stone Corp. so the company can expand its nearby quarry.

The 25-year mineral rights lease is expected to generate about $24 million, which RDU officials said would be used for infrastructure projects, such as replacing the airport’s primary runway, adding gates and upgrading amenities in the terminals.

Wake Stone will be allowed to expand its quarry off Interstate 40 by 105 acres under the deal, which also requires the company to provide $3.6 million for a governmental entity or nonprofit to lease and manage 151 acres of airport land near Umstead State Park for mountain biking trails.

The area has long been used by mountain bikers and hikers, even though they’re technically trespassing on airport property.

Wake Stone also agreed to spend about $3 million at the end of its lease to add recreational features to the area it’s mining so it can be reclaimed for public use.

“We’re making a compromise here. These are concessions that we didn’t plan to give in order to get this deal done,” Wake Stone President Sam Bratton said.

The Umstead Coalition fought against the expanded quarry, saying the RDU land would be better used as an expansion of the state park or for recreation.

Dozens of quarry opponents packed the RDU board meeting to express their displeasure with the lease deal.

“In order to stay one of the best places to live in the world, we need more park space. We don’t need a giant hole in the ground,” Anthony Corriveau said.

“Who wants a big hole? Certainly not people who love nature, who love to get outside. Certainly not the residents who live there. [It’s] very disappointing, very disappointing,” Camye Womble said.

Conservation groups are considering legal action against the decision, said Natalie Lew of Triangle Off-Road Cyclists.

“We want a win-win situation, but the rock quarry is not part of any balance,” Lew said. “Continuing the current quarry and expanding it takes more of the border of Umstead State Park away.”

Umstead Coalition argued that the RDU board’s vote violated state and federal regulations because neither the Federal Aviation Administration nor the local governments that own the airport signed off on the lease.

“The Airport Authority navigates and complies with an intricate web of statutory and regulatory requirements every day, RDU officials said in a news release. “The Airport Authority has done due diligence related to its approval of the agreement with Wake Stone and is confident that the permitting and approval process to determine the feasibility of the expansion of the existing quarry can begin. The Airport Authority remains committed to complying with all applicable laws and requirements.”

RDU began seeking revenue-generating proposals for its property two years ago.

Wake Stone still must obtain all required federal, state and environmental permits for the quarry, which is estimated to take up to two years.