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UNC Airport
June 25, 2011

UNC airport authority legislation repealed
 
    The legislation authorizing the University of North Carolina to establish an airport authority was repealed on Thursday, June 23, 2011 when Governor Bev Perdue signed into law the Government Reduction Act.  Senate Bill 593 eliminates “certain state boards and commissions that have not met recently, are duplicative or are not deemed critical.”  Included in the list of items to be abolished is legislation enabling the UNC Board of Governors to create an airport authority and build an airport in Orange County.  NC Representatives Verla Insko and Joe Hackney, and NC Senator Ellie Kinnaird initiated adding the UNC airport authority legislation to the bill.  
    In August of 2008 NC Senate Bill 1925 was signed into law, authorizing the UNC Board of Governors to establish an airport authority empowered to identify a site within Orange County, take land by eminent domain, and oversee construction of an airport.  The site was limited to Orange County despite a UNC-funded study that found Raleigh Durham Airport in Wake County to be the most feasible location to replace the university's Horace Williams Airport in Chapel Hill. At the time, UNC planned to spend $50 to $100 million in public funds on a new regional airport to be used primarily for private interests.  Two thirds of the 15-seat authority would have been controlled by UNC, UNC Health Care and NC General Assembly appointees, with one third appointed by the county and towns. 
    Beginning in August 2008, hundreds of Orange County residents opposed to UNC’s airport plans contacted local, state and federal officials, commenting on the flawed process behind the legislation, high projected costs and negative impacts on residents, the environment and local farms.  After reviewing all the facts related to setting up the airport authority and the potential use of eminent domain to site and build a UNC airport, in January of 2009 UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp decided not to proceed with seating the authority, with concurrence from UNC System President Erskine Bowles.  Instead, Thorp and UNC committed to building a $3 million hangar at RDU for relocating UNC’S Area Health Education Center (AHEC) flight operations from Horace Williams Airport.  AHEC operations are currently preparing to move into the newly completed hangar at RDU.
    County residents and Preserve Rural Orange board members Tom Schopler and Cliff Leath met recently with Insko, Hackney, and Kinnaird, and this week applauded the Orange County delegation’s accomplishment of repealing the airport authority legislation and praised Chancellor Thorp’s leadership in putting the issue to rest.  Since PRO was founded in 2009, our members have been engaged in productive discussions with government and university leaders to seek sustainable, cost-saving alternatives to damaging development.  
    Upon learning of Senate Bill 593's passage, Cliff Leath remarked, “The repeal of the airport authority legislation gives us all a cause to rejoice and thank our legislators for listening to us.  It also reminds us that people working together for the common good can and do make a difference.  The formation of Preserve Rural Orange, meetings held at White Cross Community Center, petitions that neighbors signed, news articles and letters to the editor, and communication efforts by Orange County Voice, local businesses and other community groups were all a testament to our resolve over this issue.”
    PRO thanks community members who helped with this effort.  Without their support, encouragement, activism and involvement, this successful outcome would not be possible.

Chancellor Thorp announcement
 
(Excerpt from Senate Bill 593:)
GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF NORTH CAROLINA
SESSION 2011
 
SENATE BILL 593
RATIFIED BILL
*S593-v-5*
AN ACT REDUCING STATE GOVERNMENT BY ABOLISHING CERTAIN STATE BOARDS, COMMISSIONS, AND COMMITTEES.
 
The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:
PART I. ELIMINATION OF CERTAIN STATE BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS THAT HAVE NOT MET RECENTLY, ARE DUPLICATIVE, OR ARE NOT DEEMED CRITICAL
 
(from page 11)
SECTION 1.41.(a) Article 33 of Chapter 116 of the General Statutes is repealed.
SECTION 1.41.(b) G.S. 116-11(12c) is repealed.
SECTION 1.41.(c) This Section is effective when it becomes law.

_________________________________________________

NO AIRPORT CAMPAIGN A SUCCESS
Reprieve for rural Orange County community

January 9, 2009--In a press conference this morning, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp announced that he has asked the UNC Board of Governors not to create an airport authority to build a new airport in Orange County, and that the university will move its flight operations to Raleigh-Durham Airport. Cliff Leath, Tom Schopler and Laura Streitfeld represented PRO at the press conference in South Building.
Thorp's statement


PRO would like to thank local residents and businesses for your persistence and support in bringing this about.  All of the petitions, meetings, letters, phone calls,  donations, signs and bumper stickers, with ongoing local media investigation and coverage, have led to this very positive accomplishment in protecting our rural community. 


PRO Community Meeting, October 27, 2008   Photo by Greg Rapp

While we are pleased with Chancellor Thorp's decision, we are continuing to look into options regarding the status of the existing NC Senate Bill 1925, which authorized creating a UNC airport authority.
To contact your state legislators, click on the link below:
NC Legislators

For more information and news on the UNC airport issue, visit the News and Links pages on the PRO website.
AIRPORT STUDIES and MAPS

To look at the University of North Carolina's public records, commissioned airport studies and maps,
click on the links below:


Site H Map
Site 9 Map

Orange County Land Use Map

No Airport: Faces of White Cross
Online Photo Exhibit


  Billie and Warren Ray                     Photo © Jesse Kalisher 2008

To view Jesse Kalisher's 2008 photos of farmers and residents of southwest Orange County, click on the link below :
White Cross Photos

Photo Exhibit Video
To see the exhibit and photographer on
WNCN NBC-17, click on the link below:

The exhibit's opening reception on January 9, 2009 was a well-attended community celebration, following UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp's announcement earlier in the day that the airport authority would not be seated, and that UNC would relocate its AHEC flight operations to Raleigh-Durham International Airport.  For more information on the airport decision, visit the PRO website home page.
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