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Stopping the Quarry: The First Step - Russ Stephenson for Raleigh

Stopping the Quarry: The First Step

Stopping the Quarry: The First Step
Let's make sure our forest doesn't turn into this.

Last Tuesday, Raleigh City Council took the first step in protecting Umstead Park by voting 7–0 to oppose the RDU quarry. This vote is an enormous victory for Raleigh and Umstead Park.

In March, myself and fellow council members Stef Mendell, David Cox, Kay Crowder proposed that Raleigh ask the Airport Authority to pause the quarry deal. Instead, together, we could seek a win-win outcome benefitting the airport, Umstead State Park, and our environment. Unfortunately, that March 5 Council vote failed 4-to-4.

Last week, under intense public pressure, three Councilors dropped the pretense that “there is nothing we can do,” and agreed to take a stand against the Airport Authority.

The Details

This Council’s Sept 17 vote begins to repair the damage done on March 5, when Council split 4 to 4 over whether to take any position at all on the quarry lease. At that time, four Councilors – myself, Stef Mendell, David Cox and Kay Crowder – proposed that Raleigh ask the Airport Authority to pause the quarry deal and enter into conversations seeking a win-win outcome, benefitting the airport, Umstead State Park and the environment. Unfortunately, the March 5 Council vote failed, with McFarlane, Stewart, Branch and Thompson voting no. While Council’s unanimous Sept 17 vote is a huge step forward toward finding a win-win outcome, it highlights two problems. 

The unanimous (7 to 0, 1 excused) vote to oppose the RDU quarry lease takes the position—for the first time since the lease was signed seven months ago on March 1—that:

  1. Raleigh, as a deeded owner of the Odd Fellows tract, has standing to:
  2. take the legal position that the RDU Airport Authority should not have signed the quarry lease without Raleigh’s permission and…
  3. that Raleigh might pursue legal action to establish Raleigh’s rights.

This vote is a big step in stopping the quarry and working toward a solution that protects Umstead Park. There are two issues with having waited this long to take a stand.

First, the unanimous vote came after the window of opportunity closed for Raleigh to join the Umstead Coalition’s lawsuit. As a result, Raleigh’s attorneys have not had a voice in court to defend our interests. 

Second, there have been complaints about the quarry lease becoming a campaign issue. The fact is: We’d have more legal options If the Council voted on March 5 as they, finally, did on September 17. While we late in uniting to pursue a win-win outcome, we can still make this happen.

What’s Next?

If the judge finds for Umstead Coalition, the quarry lease is invalidated. Barring an Airport Authority appeal, we can start over. This time, we can work together— transparently. 

If the judge dismisses the Umstead Coalition’s lawsuit, the Coalition will likely appeal.

At that point, Raleigh’s attorneys will have the opportunity to file documents supporting Raleigh’s position in front of an appellate court. The question is: Will the late Council converts vote to join an appeal?

Take a stand with Russ. Take a stand with Raleigh.

As one of the four council members who’ve been pushing for Raleigh to protect Umstead Park, I’d first ask for your vote. Whether you’re voting early or on October 8. Encourage your Raleigh friends and family to vote. Same-day registration is available during early voting.

Finally, if you can, your donations help me continue championing good decisions for all of Raleigh’s citizens.