The new airport authority chosen to oversee the relocation of UNC-Chapel Hill's Horace Williams Airport has too much power and should think twice before using it.
We support the spirited resistance of community members who are speaking out against the proposed use of eminent domain to allocate a sight for a new airport.
Because the 15-member board is headed by UNC and the UNC Health Care System the power to appropriate the land is ultimately held by the University.
This dynamic threatens to create a rift in town-gown relations.
About 300 people attended a meeting Sunday at which many expressed concerns about the precedent set by allowing the University to seize private land.
Eminent domain refers to the process through which governments acquire land and develop it for public use.
But the entire public must be taken into account. The current proposal to build a new airport sells the community short.
Proponents claim a new airport will promote development and attract corporate partners to Carolina North. Area Health Education Center doctors also support a local airport arguing that a move to Raleigh-Durham International Airport would negatively impact their program. MedAir currently based at Horace Williams serves AHEC doctors who fly to clinics.
However a 2005 UNC study concluded that Horace Williams could be effectively integrated into RDU at a cost of about $2 million. This scenario was recommended by the same study. Reports estimate that $35 million would be required for the new airport with taxpayers footing the bill.
RDU's proximity and cheaper price tag make it the most practical spot for relocation.
And we don't think that seizing private land to build another airport is essential to the mission of the University.
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