I owe you an explanation. At the Council Meeting on Tuesday a resolution was introduced that would have asked the RDU Airport Authority to reconsider their vote to lease land to Wake Stone Quarry. I voted against this and would like to explain why.
If the world was black and white - quarry or no quarry - then I would chose no quarry every time. But, we know that the world is not black and white; it’s nuanced.
Presently the tract of land in question, The Odd Fellows Tract, is owned by the RDU Airport Authority. While the property is adjacent to Umstead State Park, it’s not part of it. It’s private property of the airport. I recognize that many avid cyclists spend hours exploring and maintaining the great mountain bike trails on The Odd Fellows Tract, but they do so without permission.
The RDU Airport Authority’s number one responsibility is to ensure the viability of the airport, a critical part of our community’s future. Their vote last week to approve the quarry lease caught many of us off guard. It will be years before we see the full effects of this decision and the deal they have made, which does include a plan for permanent, legal mountain bike trails.
Unfortunately, the Raleigh City Council currently has no authority over the RDU Airport Authority’s decision. As our City Attorney said, our resolution would be purely a political statement and carry no real weight. Unlike other elected bodies, Raleigh City Council has a tradition of not passing purely political resolutions. With this understanding, I voted against this resolution.
One of the things I’ve learned while being on City Council is that we must recognize and use our authority responsibly. If we overextend, there could be negative repercussions for our community. It’s a delicate balance.
The resolution brought before us this week ended up dividing our council, and worse, our community in an unnecessary way on a matter we have no authority over. Frankly, I think bringing up the resolution was a disingenuous effort.
City Council did unanimously agree to ask the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a letter clarifying whether local government approval was needed. Per this News & Observer article, the FAA stated later that afternoon that the RDU Airport Authority does not need our approval on the lease.
If the FAA decides that the Raleigh City Council (alongside our other local government partners of Wake County, Durham County, and the City of Durham) does have the authority and responsibility to weigh in on the lease, then I will be ready to do so.
I will continue to use my role on Raleigh City Council to protect our environment by pushing to reduce our climate pollution, fully funding our sewer and water infrastructure, and encouraging more sustainable transit options.
This situation is exactly why public parks, like Umstead State Park and Wake County Crabtree Park, are so vital to our community since they protect natural resources for future generations. And I will continue to fight to improve and add to the parks that fall under our authority, ensuring everyone has access to beautiful green spaces.