RDU Airport Authority seeks dismissal of quarry lawsuit

The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority has asked a Wake County judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed in March by opponents of a proposed quarry on airport property.

Attorneys for the airport authority filed the request Wednesday.

They’re asking for a Superior Court judge to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the Umstead Coaltion, Triangle Off-Road Cyclists (TORC), and other plaintiffs and to order them to pay airport authority’s legal fees upon the dismissal, according to the filing.

In a news release, the airport authority said, “The claims brought by the plaintiffs are without merit.”

Opponents of the proposed quarry want to prevent the airport authority from moving ahead with a 25-year mining lease with Wake Stone. The new quarry would be across Crabtree Creek from the company’s existing quarry, on the north side of Interstate 40.

“This response was not unexpected,” said Umstead Coalition chairwoman Jean Spooner. “We feel like we have a strong case. We will continue our defense of Umstead Park and the RDU Airport public lands.”

The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority put these three pieces of land, totaling about 256 acres, up for lease in September 2017. It agreed to lease parcels 2 and 3 to Wake County, but has not decided whether to allow Wake Stone Corp. to develop a quarry on Parcel 1, which is known as the Odd Fellows tract. RDU

Earlier this month, a judge issued a temporary restraining order until Aug. 5 that prevents Wake Stone from any quarry activities on the property.

The land for the proposed quarry has been a popular place for off-road bicycling. The airport authority contends that bicyclists and hikers have illegally accessed the 105-acre property for recreational purposes, according to the filing. It sits next to Umstead State Park.

The news release says the airport authority has been clear in public forums and in other conversations that the public is not legally allowed to access airport property for recreational use.

Airport officials say they expect to receive between $20 million and $25 million in royalties from Wake Stone over the lifetime of the lease.

A spokeswoman for the airport authority declined to comment on Wednesday’s filing, saying it was in pending litigation.

Joe Johnson is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer. He most recently covered towns in western Wake County and Chatham County. Before that, he covered high school sports for The Herald-Sun.