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Our Story

In August 2008, residents of southwest Orange County learned of NC Senate Bill 1925, which established an Airport Authority for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to relocate its Horace Williams Airport operations. The new authority would be composed of fifteen members, with eight appointed by UNC, two by the state, two by the municipalities and three by the county.  The authority would have the power to take land by eminent domain, and was limited in its site selection to Orange County.  According to a comprehensive $200,000 Talbert & Bright studycommissioned by UNC in 2005, the number one location for a new airport which met the most criteria was Raleigh-Durham Airport, but the first location in Orange County would be in southwest Orange at Site H. 

Neighbors circulated a petition opposing UNC’s airport plans and collected over 1800 signatures in a matter of weeks.  At the first Preserve Rural Orange community meeting in September 2008, close to 300 people turned out to share concerns and information about the proposed airport. Signed petitions were presented to the Orange County Commissioners in October 2008.  In January 2009 when UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp announced that university flight operations would relocate to RDU, volunteers had collected over two thousand petition signatures. Local residents founded Preserve Rural Orange to address current and future development plans that would adversely affect the rural, historically agricultural community in Orange County.

 residents of Orange County have come together over concerns that would have impacted the environmental integrity of watershed land, farms and homes. In the recent past, community members have been instrumental in stopping a landfill and a previous airport proposal. For a decade, neighbors worked on the campaign to Save Cane Creek. Some of the same families who lost significant farmland by eminent domain to Cane Creek Reservoir in the 1980's would have lost much of their remaining land if an airport were built on Site H. 

On a series of land use and environmental compliance issues, from airport siting to waste transfer stations, animal research facilities, and commercial event centers claiming farm status, PRO's public campaigns have informed and brought together citizens and decision-makers to improve outcomes for the environment and public health.
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