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Legislation clears the way for new airport

Landfill gas facility for Carolina North also part of bill

by Kirk Ross
Staff Writer

The General Assembly has cleared the way for UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC Health Care to jointly create an airport authority, which will be charged with locating, building and operating a new airport to replace the field at Horace Williams.

The authority provisions, woven into a bill that authorizes various university system construction projects, require approval by the UNC System Board of Governors for the university and the health care system to set up an authority. Once set up, the authority would have the right to acquire property, condemn land and construct an airport facility.
The bill was held up briefly while Senate and House negotiators settled on language that limited where such an authority could be set up. The Senate’s version of the bill was much broader, allowing other institutions in the UNC system to set up airport authorities. But House negotiators led by Orange County representatives Verla Insko and Bill Faison managed to maintain language the House adopted specifying that the new airport authority should be limited to Orange County.

An amendment offered by Faison during House debate states that, “An airport established under this Article may only be established in Orange County. The sole purpose of the authority is to re-site Horace Williams Airport and operate the re-sited aircraft.”

Under the rules, the new authority would consist of 15 members, including one recommended by the speaker of the House, one recommended by the president pro tem of the Senate, eight members recommended by the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees and approved by the UNC System Board of Governors, three members appointed by the county board of commissioners and two members appointed by municipalities.

Another section of the legislation authorizes $17.7 million in funding for “Cogeneration and Steam Infrastructure Improvements and Expansion” and allows UNC-Chapel Hill to proceed with construction and financing for a landfill-gas utilization project. University and Orange County officials completed an agreement this spring on a plan to use gas from the Eubanks Road landfill to fuel a cogeneration plant on the Carolina North property. During community discussion on Carolina North last year, university officials said they would like to develop a cogeneration plant at Carolina North and identified a potential site in the center of the property.

  1. Angry

    Never fear though, I’m sure this authority will only take land from people with little political influence or sway in Orange County. Why in the world must UNC have its own little airport when RDU is more than capable of handling the traffic that would be diverted in its direction once Horace Williams is closed? RDU is already loosing traffic and business from an ailing industry. I’m sure they could use the additional income from the private air traffic. Then again, UNC gets what UNC wants – without fail.