My notes from the Airport meeting at White Cross

I attended the meeting at the White Cross community center, in Southern Orange County. There was a good turnout of people. The community center is a building housing gymnasium / basketball court and space surrounding it for spectators.  The room was full of attendees.  

The group that arranged the meeting is called “Preserve Rural Orange”; they are just getting organized to oppose the airport.  They were handing out ‘No Airport” signs and bumper stickers at the meeting and asking for donations to offset the cost of printing.

The meeting began with several land owners voicing their issues:

Cliff Leath was the first speaker. I understand Mr. Leath owns approx 40 acres at the head of the runway.  He said he was disturbed about the airport, but trying to be objective about it.  One concern of his would be the effect of light pollution from lights on the airport. He presented a map of ‘site H’, one of the areas under consideration...

“It is not about AHEC”.  Leath said he talked to several doctors in person, and none of them have an issue with flying out of RDU.  His estimates to develop an airport on the location were between 50 and 100 million dollars.

Next Mark Marcoplos, also a resident of SW Orange County. He mostly talked about the process of organizing the Preserve Rural Orange.

Mr. Marcoplos lives on Orange Chapel Garden Clover road, which is also in the area of the proposed site H. He proposed a structure for the organization, and urged neighbors to get involved and join a committee.

Organizing committees, brought out committee sign up sheets
  • Outreach committee – outreach to other organizations in the area, already operating.
  • Steering committee – composed of the founding members of the group.
  • Political committee – outreach to elected officials
He invited as much participation in as possible in the organization. The first meeting in the next couple of weeks, of course, affected to upcoming election.

A question was asked: “how long a process will it take to construct the airport? “  Marcoplos expects it to take several yeas, and this group wishes to ‘hit the ground running’ to begin to work to oppose the airport.

Next was Laura (sorry I could not understand her last name)
“We are not working full time on this like the people in the university are”

Laura asked for donations to cover the cost of the signs and bumper stickers being given out.
Laura also talked about the need for the neighbors to work together; one example was the work to oppose a landfill in the areas, also actions to prevent an expansion of the Cane Creek reservoir.

Approx $2,000 was spent to make the signs, donated by someone I did not hear her name.  They have already have raised $800 to recover the costs.

They are trying to contact all 25 property owners affected for the land that occupies the area the current proposals covers.

Next up, “Mr. Ray” This how he was introduced, I do not know Mr. Ray’s first name.

His land joins the edge of Cliff Leath’s, and has been in his wife’s family for a very long time, and passed down through generations. They had planned to pass the land down to future generations of their family. Mr. Ray reminded us that Orange County tries to keep the land rural, and to prevent lots of housing subdivisions from being developed.  He felt this seemed to be a double standard on the part of the government to now want to develop this airport.

“My land is NOT for sale”
“They will have to fight me in court to get my land”

Loud applause by people in the room.

Mr. Ray feels the people in Chapel Hill and Carrboro want to take his land.  He previously was involved in the committee to fight a landfill.  He said he pays his taxes every year, never has had any back taxes.

Next landowner, Ute Kessler.  Mrs. Kessler and her husband bought approx 100 acres when they arrived here in the mid 60’s.  They have lived on this land ever since.  What is of interest in her situation is they had donated their land to the Triangle Land Conservancy.  This donation is in the form of a conservation easement, whereby the land cannot be developed, even if she were to sell it to a new owner.  Mrs. Kessler wonders how the legalities of the restrictions on this land will affect the eminent domain issues that threaten to take control of it.

“We are fortunate to live in a country where we are permitted to buy and own land.  “We should not take this for granted”

Her husband, a biologist, discovered some portion of their land had previously been a wetland. They collaborated with the federal government to reclaim the wetlands. Secretary of interior Gail Norton cited her and her husbands work as an example for preserving and restoring

Easement or not, she is strongly opposed to the airport. “We should not have our land taken against our will”

Next speaker, Nancy Holt, life time resident of the area, went to school here, now retired and still lives near by.  

Spoke about the charter and mission of UNC, and said there is not one word in it that said UNC’s mission was economic development. Proceeded to talk about the mission of UNC hospital. No where does it say anything abut economic development being in its mission.

She discussed the matter with attorneys about whether UNC can claim eminent domain.

There are 9 reasons that can be used to declare eminent domain, none of which covers airports.  Her issues centered on rights of eminent domain. She also asserts that NC has among the worst eminent domain laws in the country.

Next came Alex Castro, a retired Navy aviator who is chairing the research committee. He presented an aeronautical chart of the plan.  The focus of his research has been the general aviation facilities already in the area.  Horace Williams is very restricted now for use.  Looked at other GA airports near by:

Burlington, Person County and Siler city

Studies on the current utilization of the other airports.

Horace Williams current traffic: 400 flights per month

Burlington: Honda is building a light jet manufacturing facility in the area west of the Burlington, in a partnership with General Electric. A factory is being built out at the Burlington airport to make jet engines.

Burlington invested and added 1400 feet to their existing runway.  Borrowed a total of 11M to refurbish the airport.  All with loans and no declaring of eminent domain.

One thing I found interesting was the research he performed regarding the GA traffic in the airports mentioned as well as RDU.  They did not see increases in traffic around sporting events (such as the recent football games) suggesting there is no apparent need for GA to support high roller alumni and sports fans.

Elaine Chioso of the Haw River Assembly:

Talked about how the airport would affect the Haw River, and provided a map of the Haw River water shed.  Collins creek will be heavily impacted by the location of the airport. They are studying GIS data on the topography of the area; Collins is already on a federal impaired water list it is not supporting biological life in the impairment Zone.


Next Bernadette Pellisier, 3 years on the OC planning board.

Note; Running for re-election currently.

“The role of the OC commissioners is to serve the best interests of the residents of OC.”

She read from the rules that govern the process to approve a development such as the airport. Via a conditional use permit.
  • In the event that regulations conflict, the more restrictive regulations apply.
  •  Requires a special use permit to develop an airport.
  •  The use would have to maintain or improve the property of adjacent property, unless it is considered in the public’s interest.
  •  Location and character of use must be in harmony of the area

She explains she cannot speak out publicly against the airport as that would recuse her from voting. However, she offered that she is here to consider the best interest of her constituents. (my personal interpretation of what she said was she was against the airport, wink wink, nudge nudge)

A significant airport of a scale larger than a small, HW type airport would require SIGNIFICANT zoning actions that are outside the scope and process of the special use permit.

The airport would likely not be able to operate with well water alone.
Pellisier mentioned the water and sewer boundary that exists governing the plans that would need to route water and sewers to the airport site. It was not clear to me if that meant the boundaries do not reach to the site or that the collaboration of jurisdictions would complicate extending the water/sewer.

Pellisier mentioned the Board of Commissioners are about to approve a revised OC comprehensive plan.

“Need to look at social AND economic goals together to draft compressive plans for development.”

Mitch Renkow, an economist at NC State. Talked about the economic assessment, which possibly is used to justify the development of the airport.  Talked about the study where the $40M – $50M in annul benefits of the airport were calculated.

The people who did the economic stuffy were engineers, not economists.

Talbert & Bright selected 8 regional airports in counties that were similar to Orange, and averaged and scaled based on the populations and other metrics.

Renkow is not too comfortable with the accuracy of the process.
He cited problems with the analysis and its impact:
Visitors to the county from the airport. flawed because of the proximity of the RDU airport.

Indirect effects. All the business that would be dependant on the airport for their activities.  Questionnaires were given to business in the other study areas that depend on the airports.  Suggested that it would not be surprising for all of them to cite their airport as very important (the airport they depend on for their business)

Asserts the job done on the economic impact is flawed fundamentally, and feels it is over stated significantly.

Ellie Kinnaird,

This is what people in OC do best, she is impressed with the turnout and applauded the attendees on how well informed they were regarding the airport and the issues.

Cited the areas fight against the Cane Creek reservoir.  This is an area that has already dealt with similar issues before, and now is dealing with it again.

Talked to Joe Hackney. Referred to the study that said RDU is good and appropriate to the needs of AHEC. What she said next I really didn’t quite follow, but it seemed she suggested the processes being followed is better than what could have happened, In that UNC could have pulled eminent domain without any due process anyway.

The airport is like a pebble, with its presences expanding outward causing effects.

In regards to Cane Creek, it was a necessity because of water issues.  Whereas an airport is not, for sure one the same scale of needs.

Suggested that the federal government, as well as the state, with budget shortfalls could not even pull together the money to develop the airport.

(Not sure if that is a good safeguard, especially if the money to move forward had already been allocated.)

“Why would the county want to disrupt the water quality any further to develop the airport?”

Cliff Leath returned: “This is a quality of life issue”  “We have farmers; we have organic farms in this area.  How will this airport improve OUR quality of life?

The study recommends a 5,550 foot runway.  Asserts a jetport is what is being built.  “If the governor is giving up his jet, why should UNC be allowed to have and land jets here?”

“UNC is in the education business, not the airport business”

The new airport will have unlimited use 24/7 as opposed to the limitations currently at the HW airport.

There were a couple of unscheduled speakers. 

BJ Lawson, a congressional candidate for the 4th district, who is opposing David Price. He cited Richard Stevens, who represents what Lawson called a gerrymandered district, designed to hold a republican in office.  He went on further to share his disappointment in Sen. Stevens for voting in favor of airport.  I honestly didn't understand the point Mr. Lawson was trying to make. He's not running against Stevens, so why not just talk about his points regarding the airport and emminent domain.

Following Lawson, Kevin Wolff asked for time.  This was perhaps the most bizarre part of the meeting. Mr. Wolff introduced himself as the only Republican from Orange County running for elected office.  He used the opportunity to explain the ways he would handle the airport issue better than his opponent, Ms. Pellisier, citing areas of expertise in law and business that Ms. Pellisier does not have on the topic.  

Wolff: “Bring balance back to the board of commissioners’

At this time, the crowd began to voice some annoyance with Mr. Wolff statements.  It didn’t appear they were defending Ms. Pellisier but rather did not like the meeting turning into a political debate.

My conclusions:  This is my first crack at writing about an event such as this.  I was impressed with the turnout, and the patience of the people attending.  People were polite, and listened carefully.  I believe rural Orange to be more politically diverse than Chapel Hill, so I am sure both major parties were well represented by those in attendance.

The people organizing the committees are clearly passionate about their land, and the part of rural orange they live in.  I left feeling there was a clear mistrust of all involved in the airport, this long list includes the towns of Carrboro and Chapel Hill, the university and the State of North Carolina. They already have experience in organizing against developments in their region, the expansion of the Cane Creek reservoir and more recently a waste transfer station project. They appear ready and able to work to oppose the location of the airport ion their property.



excellent notes.  thanks for taking down everything down.
Thanks jrees for these notes! Awesome to see several perspectives on this meeting here.
Your notes are fantastic! I appreciate you taking the time to share them.
"Preserve Rural Orange" is doing a great job. But... I wish that all the time, energy and passion were being used toward keeping an airport out of ALL of Orange County, not just one little corner of it. Let's face it, no matter where it were placed, it would be an incredible disruption. Why not try to fight the very need for an airport itself, rather than just saying don't put it in MY back yard?" Les

You may have made the understatements of the year regarding passion, mistrust of UNC and the diversity out here :)

Anyway, it was a good meeting. People were respectful. With regard to Mr. Wolff, I spoke to him after he spoke and I got the impression he was trying to assert himself to what he considered to be a base. I think in his zeal he entirely missed the point of the meeting and the fact that people were not there because of what divides them but because of what unifies them.

I too missed he point Lawson was trying to make about Steven's and Price (except that he is more of a libertarian) as well. I think he is trying to get recognition (name/face).

Steve Yuhasz was there as well. I had occasion to speak to him briefly but could not get a sense about his stand on the issue. He keep trying to float hypotheticals and they seemed to me to ignored the important points of the economic costs and the proximity of RDU. I do not want to judge the man on a single short exchange, but none the less my first impression is that his attempt to explain things seemed out of touch.

I was impressed by Bernadette, who despite not being business or law oriented (which Wolff kept bringing up when I talked to him) seemed to have a good presence and grasp of why people were there and what the concern was. IMO this attribute is actually refreshing.

I wish we could have gotten a bit more infromation out of Ellie Kinnaird. I know it is election time, and an experience politician won't stand on anything they don't have to. Her son is out there getting petitions signed, I only hope activism runs in the family :)

Here's what I was trying to say:

I've previously stated that I oppose the OC Airport as an example of government serving special interests:

As it turned out, my state senator Richard Stevens sponsored the legislation authorizing the creation of the airport authority. I've met Sen. Stevens and found him to be a good guy, and I approached him at an event several months ago to ask him why he sponsored this legislation with its questionable use of eminent domain to create an airport of dubious value that is far outside of UNC's charter.

Sen. Stevens is on UNC's Board and has deep ties at the University, and he told me that he was asked to sponsor the bill *before* the airport authority provision was included. Originally, the legislation was a non-controversial bill that approved *self-funding* construction projects at UNC -- such as a new cafeteria paid for by dining revenues. But the bill disappeared into committee, and then reappeared (without his input) with a controversial airport authority attached. But he's still the sponsor.

His response basically disclaimed liability for the airport in the bill, and he stated that it was not his intention to sponsor such a controversial project.

The point I was making, however, is that even IF someone wanted to pressure my friend Sen. Stevens to withdraw his support for the bill, there is really no way to apply pressure through the electoral process.

His district has been "gerrymandered", or specifically drawn so that it is overwhelmingly Republican. As a result, there's no Democrat running against him... so his seat is quite safe, regardless of what he does.

I don't make this observation to criticize Sen. Stevens, but simply to point out that we as citizens must fight gerrymandering to ensure that we have a balance of power among those who might seek office.

If the "big boys" in Raleigh need someone to push an unpopular bill forward, non-competitive districts and voters who reliably split along party lines are a great way to keep the population divided among itself.

We must do better if we truly seek accountable government that serves the people instead of corporate interests.


William (B.J.) Lawson, M.D.

Congressional Candidate, North Carolina's 4th District


OK. I guess we agree then. In an effort to reach agreements and build consensus as quickly as possible, many legislative bodies have removed opportunities for debate, discourse and dissent. The unintended consequence is an alarming decrease in the level of accountability.

BTW Stevens may have has a fast one slipped in on him, but the *original language* of the bill was quite plain in the House version h2725, the number has been recycled but I still have the original text, here is a portion to include the original sponsors:


Short Title: UNC Operating/Capital Funds/Airport Auth.(Public)
Sponsors:Representatives Yongue, Insko, Glazier (Primary Sponsors);
Bordsen and Faison.
Referred to:Appropriations.

May 28, 2008
AN ACT to appropriate Operating and Capital funds to the board of governors of
the university of north carolina and to allow the university of north carolina
to create airport authorities to support the mission of the university, its
constituent institutions, or the university of north carolina health care

This reads like a novel !!  - c. 


Unfortunately it's a Tom Wolfe novel and we are living it.

Mr. Ray is Warren Ray, a great community member & leader. He and I worked together to successfully defend our community from a landfill in 1991-92.

 We also worked with Ed Kuenzler, now in the Great Beyond, whose wife addressed the group about their biological preserve.

An observation - the community has grown & diversified since the landfill battles of '91-92. There is a greater diversity of folks out here now, and of course more numbers. This current battle will be waged from a position of much greater strength than any of the previous campaigns.


Mr. Marcopolos,

My name is Nadine Maeser and I am a reporter with the UNC newscast. I am really interested in doing a story about the construction of the airport and the feedback from those in the community. I really am looking for your opinions. If you'd be interested or anyone else... I would love to interview you. My email is I would preferably like to interview you Thursday Oct. 30 or Friday Oct. 31... if you'd be interested please contact me asap! Thanks and its great to see the community members getting so involved.

You may find it more effective to click on Mark's name (below, where he didn't post anonymously), and use the Contact tab on his profile. (The contact tool is only available to registered users, so you will have to sign up here first.)
A primary sponsor??  Say it ain't so!

It seems clear that there is an overall culture clash here...the dominant paradigm is that "growth is progress," of course, so there are those who see adding a 24-hour a day jetport nearby as a good thing, no matter what.  They will fight tooth and nail and use as much political capital as they think they can afford to get something like this, saying anything to get it, because of their conviction that growth is always progress.  Many of these people do in fact have a lot of political clout (and accompanying capital) to bring to bear.  That would include UNC adminstrators, UNC Hospitals administrators, and of course the politicians themselves.  One area of inquiry here, then, is to look at where the political capital is, and think about how to influence it.  (This sounds perhaps a bit abstruse, but it boils down, in part, to trying to figure out who the real power brokers are here.)

 Influencing things does require clear goals.  Different people will have different goals.  Some will just want to flat out oppose anything along the lines of a new airport.  Others might want to think about an approach involving compromise (a small airport, not operating at night, with flights as there used to be when the Chapel Hill Flying Club was at Horace Williams), with perhaps a few jets as necessary for some VIPs (keeping a few perks in there). It will be useful now to try to arrive at some approaches for developing achievable goals.

 Another thing to keep in mind is that the university can conveniently operate in a manner that allows responsibility to be diffused, but that approach can (and should) be countered.  Thus, the administrators can say that they are only doing what a committee decided, for example.  There is a clear need with something of this import for those with authority and responsibility to be kept apprised of the fact that  they are not going to be allowed to dodge, duck, or otherwise avoid the fact that they must be accountable.  This means that people, groups, etc. must keep the pressure on in this respect.  Don't let them diffuse the responsibility.  When people know that they will be accountable, they act differently, and often make different decisions than when they can somehow share or dodge it.  How to do that?  Information is power.  Get as much as possible and keep getting it, to see who is pulling the strings (or trying to get this done without acknowledging that they are in fact doing that).  Take advantage of the Open Records Act, which says that all government documents (including those submitted to government entities, and those used by them) belong to the people of the state; and the Freedom of Information Act, also.  Get as many documents as possible and post them on the internet.  With this information, strategies can evolve to get things done right.

One thing that should be stated, Ellie Kinnard signed this bill giving UNC eminent domain. To say that UNC is using restraint in not just steam rolling the airport through on eminent domain would seem oxymoronic since she signed the bill giving the eminent domain to them. Let's face it there is a lot we do not know, we are just at the tip of the iceberg and thinking that UNC, politicians and private jet owners who want this airport are going to act in our best interest is looney. You might as well tell them "come on down".

There are many anonymous players in this issue. We need to smoke them out.

Don't think that state senator Richard Stevens is a friend of rural Orange for one minute!  While it may be true (I don't know) that the airport-related language was added to senate

bill 1925 without his knowledge, he did vote for the final bill.  (The vote on the final bill was 42-1, with YES votes from both him and our senator Ellie Kinnaird).  However the story goes on:


In Sept, 1994, the UNC Board of Trustees voted unanimously to use eminent domain to take two homes on the north side of Mason Farm Road in order to build new married-student housing.  Consequently, I and other council members were quite concerned

about UNC expanding forcibly into nearby neighborhoods.  Sometime later, all the

proposals were being floated about the triangle-wide rail system that was to link Durham,

Raleigh and Cary in its phase one, and later include Chapel Hill and RDU in its phase two.  Part of the phase two proposal was to run a rail line through the Westside neighborhood, so to link the rail line that runs through Carrboro to the triangle

rail line somewhere near the UNC hospitals.


About this time, there was a large meeting at Memorial Hall (I forget its purpose) that was attended by state-wide politicians and administrators.  Joyce Brown, Julie (Andresen) McClintock and I expressed to Richard Stevens (who was then the Wake County manager) our concern about UNC's use of eminent domain.  His reply astounded us.  He said that his father's house had been taken by the NCDOT in order to build a highway intersection, and that both his father and he believed that this was a proper sacrifice to make for the general good.  He then said that he does support our right to express our concerns and wished us a good day.


"He said that his father's house had been taken by the NCDOT in order to build a highway intersection, and that both his father and he believed that this was a proper sacrifice to make for the general good."

If Sen. Stevens and his father really believed in providing for the public good, wouldn't they have simply sold their property rather forcing NCDOT to "take" it?  I've always thought that there had to be a good faith effort to purchase property at fair market value before land is "taken."

I think DOT would normally have a number of less formal offer-counteroffer efforts first.

But, failing negotiations, the way DOT initiates an eminent domain suit is by putting their estimate of fair market value on deposit with the local Clerk of Court.  The owner can choose not to litigate and merely accept the money on deposit with the Clerk.

However, situations do arise where the owner is willing to sell, but ends up in litigation because of a dispute over the value of the property being taken.

it's a great idea to take land from a rural community for an airport maybe he should just host the airport on some of his land. I'm sure he's not the NIMBY type.
Not sure where the airport might be located.  Any help appreciated.

Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.