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Judge restricts mining on Raleigh-Durham International Airport quarry land until hearing

Members of the audience for Friday’s meeting of the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority meeting show their feelings, before the board voted to make 105 acres of airport land available for a quarry.
Members of the audience for Friday’s meeting of the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority meeting show their feelings, before the board voted to make 105 acres of airport land available for a quarry. rstradling@newsobserver.com

A judge has restricted a mining company to exploratory drilling, for now, on a 105-acre tract the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority has agreed to lease to Wake Stone Corp.

The temporary restraining order will remain in place until a hearing in Wake County Superior Court, which could be held in about 10 days to consider a full injunction, according to a news release from the plaintiffs The Umstead Coalition, Tamara and Randal Dunn, Triangle Off-Road Cyclists and William Doucette.

“We seek to improve the ‘Branding’ of the RDU International Airport,” said Jean Spooner, chair of The Umstead Coalition. “The current ‘Brand’ of the airport with this (closed door) quarry deal is tarnished due to lack of community engagement, ignoring federal regulations and state laws, and negative impacts to the William B. Umstead State Park.”

The Airport Authority approved a 25-year lease with Wake Stone earlier this month to let the company use the land as a quarry.

“RDU appreciates the judge’s time and careful consideration of the information presented by the parties today,” said Jake Potter, spokesman for the airport. “We are pleased with the judge’s ruling to allow Wake Stone to continue its exploratory activity on the property.”

The Umstead Coalition, which advocates for the nearby state park, believes the lease is invalid and argues that the governments that appoint members to the Airport Authority — Raleigh, Durham, Durham County and Wake County — have final approval on any lease.

During a Wake County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday, Spooner asked the county to join the city of Raleigh in clarifying its role in the process. Raleigh leaders voted to clarify their role, though that didn’t go far enough for some Raleigh City Council members who wanted the Airport Authority to reconsider its lease.

The lawsuit also argues the airport violated the state’s open meetings law, The News & Observer previously reported.

RDU is expected to make between $20 million and $25 million in royalties from Wake Stone through the course of the lease.

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