Glimpse into UNC's internal debates

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday May 21, 2005

Like the three-headed dog of Greek mythology, town, gown and scrubs have put their heads together to move forward on a common initiative. Last week, Mayor Foy, Chancellor Moeser and UNC Healthcare CEO Roper all signed a letter to the N.C. Department of Transportation conveying their "agreement on a solution acceptable to all parties" on the long-delayed improvements to Chapel Hill's South Columbia Street.

Perhaps now, the turn lanes, bike lanes and sidewalks agreed to by the town and Chancellor Michael Hooker in 1998 will at last be built.

This was quite a turnaround from recent weeks when it was learned that the improvements were held up by the DOT and questions were raised as to the university's involvement.

Those who follow the issue are well aware that not long after Moeser's arrival, the university reneged on Hooker's agreement and the planned improvements were stalled.

Then, in 2003, in return for town approval of the Cobb Parking Deck and chiller plant, UNC agreed, in the words of Trustee Roger Perry, to "implement the previously agreed upon improvements."

In February, it was discovered that the South Columbia project was one of several that were on hold. It was not a big leap for Chapel Hillians to suspect university complicity, that UNC had done somewhat less implementing than might have been expected.

University leaders were quick to reassure us that they had not spoken to the DOT. "We have not had any conversations with anybody about this" were the words of university planning honcho Bruce Runberg.

There is a well-known scene in Frances Ford Coppola's Godfather Part II in which the U.S. Senate is holding hearings on the Mafia. The committee chairman asks Corleone family "button" man Willi Cicci if he ever got an order to kill directly from Michael Corleone. "No," Cicci replies, "I never talked to him."

A Sen. Geary asks if there was always a buffer involved. "Right," Cicci answers, "the Family had a lotta buffers."

Sometimes an explicit conversation is not needed.

Two weeks ago, Bill Strom urged the Town Council to ask the university to clarify its position. That was when Roper revealed that he only "reluctantly" supported the agreement. He hardly needed to say more, much like when the Corleones only reluctantly want someone to keep breathing.

But now, with this week's group letter, we're all friends again. Or are we?

Planning issues surrounding the university are looking more and more Shakespearean (in the sense of "Hamlet" rather than "As You Like It"). Minor skirmishes with the town may soon be overshadowed by an internecine struggle over the airport.

Two weeks ago, townspeople were getting all bent out of shape over a legislative budget provision that would allow the closing of Horace Williams Airport and therefore more rapid progress on Carolina North. The idea is to temporarily move the fleet for the Area Health Education Centers to RDU airport.

But on May 11, Dean Roper said that decisions about the future of the airport should emerge from a "free and full debate on the issues." In other words, he's not on board with the proposed closing, perhaps not even reluctantly.

This reveals what has been a bit of a conundrum for Chapel Hill. The town has tended to treat Moeser as if he speaks for "the university" in the broad sense, including both the university itself and the hospital. He and his staff freely convey that impression. But it is increasingly apparent that this is not the case.

The university was willing to make concessions on South Columbia Street. UNC Health Care was reluctant to go along. The university is eager to shut down Horace Williams Airport. Not so the health system.

Chapel Hillians and the reporters who serve them are to be forgiven a bit of confusion when the university cannot come to grips with its own conflicting priorities. And it's hardly surprising that the disharmony among UNC entities might be reflected in actions at the state legislature or the Department of Transportation.

This week's letter could be the harbinger of a new era of clarity and cooperation. Or, it could be no more than a pragmatic agreement to get a pesky and relatively minor issue out of the way before facing the larger questions that lie ahead. Let's just hope none of the parties had his fingers crossed.



I think that UNC is innocent in February 2005. I vaguely remember reading in the paper about spending cuts and found this quick reminder:

February 6, 2005 News & Observer, The (Raleigh, NC)
DOT to delay road construction

Bruce Siceloff
J. Andrew Curliss Staff Writers Lead

North Carolina must postpone $600 million in highway spending this year to avoid running out of construction money by October, state transportation officials said Friday. More cuts are expected in future years. New financial calculations show that the state Department of Transportation has burned through a $1.1 billion cash surplus more quickly than expected, after two years of unprecedented spending on road maintenance and construction. Current revenue projections will...

Also, even after this letter, I wouldn't get too bent out of shape if things don't move fast on South Columbia. As my buddy in DOT says, 'DOT time ain't like regular time.'

And, yes, the letter is a harbinger of a new era of clarity and cooperation. Everyone wants you to be happier.

Yes, Mary. I will watch endless brightly colored Powerpoint presentations to the music of Ludwig von and Foy Moeser Roper and I will be clear cooperative and happy together. You too, I suppose.

Oh, and innocent too.

Geez. The rainbow has landed?

I don't think that any of the Town/Gown/Scrubs need(s) to have fingers crossed to be unbelievable, after UNC's previous input. When UNC floated their "reluctant support", they effectively condemned forward motion on the South Columbia Street improvements. It's sweet that Roper/Foy/Moeser wrote a letter together, but DOT doesn't forget. It will take a biker or pedestrian injury or death on that particular 1200 feet of atrocious transitway to make a dent in the memory of UNC's "reluctance".

I was in a town meeting with 4-5 DOT engineers in March regarding the signalling system. At that time, they told us that the only project we could swap out in order to get the signalling system upgraded was Smith Level Road. In their estimation, Weaver St and S. Columbia St were both too far along to be stopped. There was no indication whatsoever that the project was on hold at that late date, even if they were wrong in their assessment.

According to NCDOT website, South Columbia is in planning/design phase and construction happens in 2009.
Dan, you sound happier already...

Freudian slip or not, it's interesting that this week's Saturday column is classified as “Elections.” I guess anything about UNC is “elections,” as the attitude toward, or employment by the University is an election issue.

It's also interesting to read: “It was not a big leap for Chapel Hillians to suspect university complicity, that UNC had done somewhat less implementing than might have been expected.” Do we mean all, some, or a few Chapel Hillians? Has that silent majority spoken up? I understand that "they" didn't show up last Thursday, but that's because UNC didn't do enough to get them there.

Same with: “Two weeks ago, townspeople were getting all bent out of shape over a legislative budget provision that would allow the closing of Horace Williams Airport and therefore more rapid progress on Carolina North.” How many were bent out of shape?

And most interesting of all is the assumption that the only voice that we should hear is that of the Chancellor's and others should tow the line and present a united front. How often does that really happen in large bureaucracies like universities, especially when one man is the chief executive officer of the University of North Carolina Health Care System (a corporation), dean of the UNC School of Medicine and vice chancellor for medical affairs? Remember, where you stand depends on where you sit!

Can someone help me out with why closing the airport is so problematic? Is the airport only being used to transport MDs to rural clinics now?
I know two MDs who had to do this occasional rural commute as part of the job requirement. Neither liked the way the commute ate up their day and dreaded it.
Is the only problem that the commute to rural areas will be even more inconvenient and time consuming if RDU is used--or is there more?

Hi Mary--check out this thread:
As you will see, there are a variety of explanations from multiple perspectives. Surprised??????

For some reason, when I start a thread, "elections" is checked by default. Usually I catch it before posting. Thanks for pointing out the error, Fred.

If the people of Chapel Hill think it's simply a matter of Carolina North OR an airport, they'd better think again. Those of us who've lived here long enough know better.

It seems fairly obvious after reading Dean Roper's recent statements regarding AHEC that he'll be asking UNC's Board of Trustees (as well as state legislators) to keep the flight program right where it is. This, combined with the probable inevitability of Carolina North, leads one to believe that the board just might give CN's developers new marching orders: Incorporate the existing airport into any plans they're contemplating for the overall project on the Horace Williams property.

That could turn out to be a worst-case scenario for the citizens of Chapel Hill, especially those living nearby. There's little doubt that if CN's planners are forced to keep the airport intact, they'll almost certainly try to use it as a selling point to attract companies with corporate aircraft. Before we know it, we may well have a bustling jetport, or at the very least, a lot more air traffic than the few flights we have now. If you think this scenario unlikely, you need only refer to the plans the university had for the property up until a few years ago, which showed a functioning airport -- right next to 700 acres of fully developed land.

Unfortunately, we've already seen that both CN's planners and AHEC (along with AOPA, a powerful private pilot's PAC with 10,000 active and very vocal members in North Carolina) have no qualms about using the state legislature to help further their individual agendas. Woe be to the citizens of Chapel Hill if a rider attached to this year's budget bill gives UNC the mandate to proceed with Carolina North, while keeping Horace Williams airport right where it is.

We must not be misled by the lobbying efforts of anyone, be it AOPA, Dean Roper or Chancellor Moeser. It's time for the people of Chapel Hill to take a stand and say it loud and clear -- GET RID OF THE AIRPORT -- before it's too late.

Charlie P. - a compelling argument but isn't the decision whether the airport stays or goes up to the state and not the town? IMHO, there's not really much the Town of Chapel Hill can do about it. I remember the council making a similar stink some years ago because of some plane crashes near the schools, but the powers-that-be pretty much ignored them. Why should we think it would to be any different now?

Steve - You may be right... But does that mean we just throw up our hands and let the "powers-that-be" develop Carolina North right beside a fully-operational airport?

At the very least, I suggest the CH town council stop trying to remain neutral on the airport subject and express to the university in no uncertain terms that, until the airport is gone, they won't even consider plans for Carolina North.

Charlie P.

The DTH weighs in editorially here.

And in breaking news, the UNC Board of Trustees favors closing the airport and moving it to RDU. Interestingly, "there are two other viable sites to house AHEC besides Horace Williams Airport and RDU, both west of Orange County off of N.C. Highway 54."

The DTH editorial says "What those folks [local activists] need to realize is that Carolina North is essential to the well-being of a university that increasingly relies on private funding and research to keep its fiscal health."

Chris--I challenge you and the rest of the DTH staff to research the CN development from the local perspective. What does such a large development in the middle of a small town mean to full-time non-university residents? What affect will it have on local property taxes? What affect will all that additional traffic have on our already compromised air quality? the additional impervasive surfaces have on our increasingly compromised water resources/quality? It seems to me that this is a wonderful opportunity for the staff to really filter through a lot of rhetoric on both sides and make a meaningful contribution to the town-gown dialogue.

Well, I'm in Greensboro this summer, and this fall I'll be the opinion editor. Then I graduate. So no more reporting from me. :)

But you are right about examining CN from both sides, of course, and that does include the editorial page. Regardless of what people think about the DTH's relevancy in local affairs now, we hope to be a vibrant force in the coming months, and I think giving heavy coverage to growth over the summer (when those poor kids are so, so, so short-staffed) is a good start. I don't want to say too much more since I'm not in Chapel Hill this summer -- just wanted to point out that my peers have weighed in.

Far as the DTH goes, I fail to see why their editorials should reflect the townie perspective. Townies are not that paper's audience. Students in my experience have rather a different take on Carolina North that reflects their first-hand knowledge of what really goes on in classrooms at UNC, plus a real sense that townies are pretty contemptuous of students' place in the community (the near-universal feeling is that while their money is valued, their presence otherwise is not).

Note that student-government presidential candidates who've advocated the townie perspective on Carolina North (Tom Jenson this year, Lily West last year) have been soundly defeated. I don't think that's accidental.


If young journalists don't learn early to explore the complexities and nuances issues such as urban growth and development, then they won't serve the local communities they leave here to serve. Personally, I think they should always be questioning power too. As for their audience, the students on campus have a right to expect that their newspaper will provide them with well researched reporting--to me that means covering multiple perspectives rather than simply endorsing the position of the university. Please note that I posed a number of questions that aren't simple right/wrong issues.

Ray, I'll play Fred Black for a moment, and ask who you mean by "townies." All townies, including the silent majority?

I'm a townie. I don't feel contemptuous of students' place in the community. But perhaps I am without realizing it.

Please let us know the evidence for the contempt you have witnessed? How is it manifested and by whom?

Do all townies have that contempt? Kevin Foy as well as Edith Wiggins as well as Mark Kleinschmidt? Fred Black as well as Aaron Nelson as well as Joyce Brown?

We know Ray Gronberg is not a townie and that his own contempt (and the targets thereof) is therefore not relevant here. But surely an explanation is in order when a prominent former assistant-editor like yourself tosses out such charges.

Ray, thanks for weighing in with that simplistic and adversarial view of students.

Considering that most of us "townies" are here for reasons related to the University (and many like myself are UNC alumni), I think you're pretty far off the mark. But your view probably makes reporting on town-gown relations easier and more fun. I look forward to the continuing storyline from Herald about the town's contempt for the University.


The 20 students who would have disliked me for not supporting irresponsible development growth at Carolina North wouldn't have voted for me anyway for going against the grain of the student government establishment. Pretty sure that had nothing to do with my admittedly lopsided defeat.

I will express my appreciation to the DTH for giving me the opportunity as a summer columnist to espouse my 'radical' views on Town-Gown relations.

Linked below is my first column about what it means to be an 'anti-university' person in the sphere of Chapel Hill politics-

Wherever you stand on this grand issue, those not sent this email may be interested in viewing the short clip narrated by the chancellor. I will "play Fred Black" and assume that ALL are "friends of the university." :-)

Carolina's Champions

Greetings from UNC-Chapel Hill
I'm pleased to share " LINK_ID=," a brief video that highlights the accomplishments of some of the University's most talented leaders — a professor hunting a cure for childhood leukemia, students serving others, and a locker room celebration of our NCAA title. Plus, you will hear a song loved by Carolina's friends and alumni.

Check that your sound is on and simply click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.


James Moeser


This message is for alumni, parents of current students and friends of the university. Through this free service, the Office of University Relations aims to provide more opportunities for you to learn about people, events and issues at Carolina. If you have comments or questions, e-mail

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Hey Fred and Dan, maybe we can get our bikes out and compete in the big race?

By the way, does anyone know Dean Roper's reaction to the BOD's decision to move the airport? I'm wondering if he'll go along with it or throw in with the AOPA guys who are going to try and fight it in the legislature.

Frankly, I don't see what the heck it has to do with private pilots and plane owners anyway. Wasn't HWA's main purpose simply to support AHEC flights? Somebody help me here.

OK, Steve. HWA main function is to support AHEC BUT it is a general aviation airport because it is open to the flying community (accepting fed dollars makes it open). When the Flying Club was based there, UNC offset some of the cost to operate the facility by charging the club fees for basing, for tie-downs/hanger space and sold fuel. There are still private pilots who base their plans there for a fee and buy fuel, but I'm sure it is nowhere near as much revenue as before. Also, maintenanceis not to be allowed to performed at HWA, so pilots tend to go to other airports in the surrounding counties where they can get maintenance support and buy fuel as a cheaper price than the UNC price.

Note alos that HWA is open to small jets that are on university business, including sporting events. After hours and hours of meetings on this, I'm personally still not clear on the meaning of "UNC business," but the manager and his superiors make the decision if it is not a clear call.

As for AOPA, their goals is clearly stated and unchanged over the years that I have been involved with HWA: "After North Carolina legislators listened to local pilots and voted to keep Horace Williams open last year, the university has tried to sneak in language that would allow it to close the airport," said Roger Cohen, AOPA vice president of regional affairs. "AOPA's top priority is to keep airports open, and the association will fight this all the way."

Thus, I don't believe the real issue for them is AHEC; rather it is keeping a general aviation facility open in Orange County.

Now, it pretty clear that UNC does not want to close HWA because of the complaints over the years from people in Chapel Hill and Carrboro to do so; this is an economic decision, pure and simple. All that flat and cleared land means that construction will cost less and not having an airport means that UNC will not have to spend the money that keeping it there will cause them to spend.

Those who want to join the fight to keep HWA open in the hopes that it will delay or stop Carolina North could end up with both or cause critical funds to be diverted from other needy projects to supplement the higher costs to build CN. I see neither outcome as a victory.

PS: You can read the current HWA handbook at

Fred, maybe you could clarify the history of this; my understanding is HWA accepted major fed funds to do purchase the new radar equipment and to level the trees at the end of the runway, is this your recollection? And these repairs, even though they came on the heels of two crashes, actually were targetted to the jetset (whom seem to be UNC-related fatcats) which use HWA because they don't want to take a taxi from RDU (or pay RDU prices!).

We both have lived around the airport for years and remember the relative quiet (excepting the 5:30AM crank up of the AHEC props) before Hooker allowed the jet set in. I agree that it's a mystery on how they allocate these landing priviledges but what's even more mysterious is how they continue to justify an increase in those flights as the years go by (we hear them more and more frequently - don't you?).

Fred, thanks for your detailed and inciteful response. It certainly helps put the pieces of the puzzle together. Judging from your AOPA quote (“AOPA's top priority is to keep airports open and the association will fight this all the way.”), it sounds like Moeser and the BOD still have quite a fight on their hands. I just hope we don't end up with the outcome you and Charlie P. mentioned -- that we get an airport AND Carolina North. Yikes.

Ray: I wouldn't say Lily was "soundly defeated." She won the general election, and she actually won the runoff by less than 10 votes. If her boyfriend hadn't been stumping for her in a student computer lab, a blatant violation of election rules that required a new runoff, she might have been the student body president instead of Matt Calabria. Tom makes a good point; town-gown relations just don't have a lot to do with student politics.

There is something to be said, however, about the students feeling that "townies," if you want to group people as such, look down on them -- whether consciously or, as Dan sort of hinted at, subconsciously. I'm not saying that's right or wrong, good or bad. I'm merely saying that perception exists.

Not to keep changing the subject, though! I know that "UNC business," vis-a-vis the airport, often includes flying folks like Chancellor Moeser and President Broad around the state, presumably to woo some of the bigwigs. It's probably where they bring in some of the sports recruits, too, but I've never actually looked at the logs.

Steve - If you're in for a real chilling eye-opener, just visit the AOPA website at This is one BIG organization, with 400,000 members nationally (10,000 in NC alone!). And I would guess they have very deep pockets as well. They even have a picture online showing one of their members presenting House Speaker Black with a plaque for all his valuable efforts in keeping HWA open for AOPA's members. Hmmm.

Will: Michael Hooker did not let the jets in, rather President Spangler unilaterally made the change in October of 1996 and told Hooker to make the change official. In Marchof 1997, Mayor Waldrof, Council members Andresen, Capowski and Evans and I (as chair of the Town's HWA Committee) met with Chancellor Hooker and Vice-Chancellor Floyd. At that meeting, the chancellor said that his boss made a decision and he supported his boss. Later, working with Chancellor Hooker, we created the university's HWA Advisory Board that included elected and non-elected representatives of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, as well as reps from Orange County, the School Board, the flying club, a non-club pilot, AHEC, and of course the university reps.

The FAA support you are referring to was in addition to a lot of prior support. In 1998 when the FAA did their routine aerial survey of HWA, they indicated that there were trees that had grown taller and now encroaching on the approach slopes on both ends of the airport. UNC was informed that until the obstructions wee removed, night instrument approaches would be unauthorized until they were removed. This did not apply to daytime operations, or approaches day or night under visual flight rules (VFR). It was not about the jets.

Here's the key to FAA funding: Federal Reg Part 157.2 says “Public Use means available for use by the general public without a requirement for prior approval of the owner or operator.” If HWA went from public to private use, it would mean
1. Loosing federal services like weather, instrument landing options, direct radio contact with the RDU tower and approach obstruction surveys. These services can be purchased for approx. $125K to $315K one time or $50K on a recurring basis; and
2. Reduced possibility of receiving FAA services in the future because you go to the end of the line of requestors.
3. Increased user insurance and increased UNC liability.
4. Loss of eligibility for federal funding of capital improvements.
5. Lower revenue to HWA.

Public funds must be used for public purposes. It would make little economic sense to UNC to go private and not accept those FAA dollars.

In case there is any possible confusion, I am NOT related to Speaker Black, at least nobody ever told me that I was! :-)

A couple of years ago The Nation had an excellent report on regional airports. Their premise was that most people end up driving so far and spending so much on parking to get to the mega-ports, and then making so many hops and transfers, that its often faster, cheaper, and less environmentally destructive to drive rather than fly. They predicted a bright future for regional airports. From what I have read, their proposition is panning out, as evidenced by the success of Southwest, etc.

Is it possible that getting rid of HW could take away a future opportunity--both environmentally and economically for the community as well as the university?

Terri - Good one!!! Let's get Donald Trump down here to start CH Airlines.

Terri, it's a good question, but I think there's a difference between little airports like HW and regional airports like what's in Asheville or Fayetteville, which already have a commerical infrastructure. And for what it's worth, from where I used to live in western North Carolina, it was (unfortunately) always cheaper to drive 3.5 hours to Atlanta or Charlotte than 1.5 to Asheville (even when the flight from Asheville connected through Atlanta or Charlotte).

I think by mega-airports, they mean NYC, Atlanta, Miami, etc, not even RDU. I don't think Chapel Hill would support a commercial airport here in town.

It was only slightly tongue in cheek, Steve. If we want to reduce dependency on the automobile, moving AHEC out of town is contradictory. Shouldn't we be looking at how to make the airport more useful to more individuals as part of the alternative transportation dialogue? It may not be feasible but has anyone considered it?

Joan--The article did mention RDU; it included all internationals. I figured out last year that its almost as fast and much cheaper to drive to Indiana--takes me 10 hours and less than $100. To fly out of RDU takes about 7-8 hours, depending on the length of layover in Cincinnati, and approx $200. That doesn't include my dad's trip to pick me up.

Sorry, Terri. I didn't mean to sound flippant. Your point is well taken. But most of those regional airports that are used for commercial transport probably aren't as close to major residential areas and schools as HWA is. Does anyone know what the laws are regarding this?

Steve, there are no widely accepted national standards or guidelines for safety zones near airports. The Federal Aviation Administration position is to leave land-use decisions to local governments.

In our case, all of the residential areas and schools near HWA were authorized by the local governments. For many airports, the issue of noise along the take-off and landing patterns has been the primary issue that resulted in people organizing against the airports. When we did our research a few years ago, we discovered that an estimated 2 to 4 million people are impacted by airport noise pollution and an estimated 650 citizens' groups representing 1.5 million people were challenging the industry by fighting the expansion plans at 3,300 airports. Great examples are Chicago's Midway and Boston's Logan.

Expansion at HWA has resulted in a longer runway. In 1971, it was paved to 3,500 feet and in 1989, it went to 4,005, a distance necessary to accomodate jets. At that time, Chancellor Hardin reiterated the no jets pledge to the community and indicated that the increase was only for safety reasons. In 1991 or 1992, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Orange County, UNC, pilots, neighbors, and AHEC participated in a University of Virginia facilitated mediation process and UNC agreed once again to a no jets policy and no increase in the use of HWA. Then in 1996, ....

Don't forget the "Centennial Campus Envy". While the current UNC/North designs parrot the Perryville architecture at Centennial Campus and while the current promoted usage mirrors that of the underutilized, overdeveloped, oversold Centennial Campus, by retaining HWA UNC can offer corporations a real teaser way beyond an 18-hole golf swamp; private jet access to their facilities!

I've been waiting for that shoe to drop for sometime. How else is Moeser supposed to cement his legacy legacy?

"Carolina North will expand Carolina's multiple missions, boost innovation and redefine our engagement with the region, state and world," UNC Chancellor James Moeser said in a statement. "The great news from this study is that Carolina, through Carolina North, can continue to be a catalyst for the economic transformation of our state."

Fred, I find it hard to believe that the town would keep allowing expansion of the runway like that. I also find it hard to believe that they allowed two schools to be built right on the flight path. Just after I moved here, I remember hearing about a plane crashing a few yards from the athletic area at Phillips where some kids were playing sports. Doesn't the town have any power to increase safety standards?

Steve, I wish that there were simple answers to the questions that you pose! The established principle in NC is that local governments have only those powers expressly given it by state law, meaning that the local government is a creature of the state government (aka "Dillons Rule"). State appellate court decisions have restricted the application of local zoning authority over "enterprises" conducted by duly authorized agencies of state government. Airports are considered to be "enterprises" and HWA is a state facility.

Zoning wise, HWA is a nonconforming use. What the town has been able to do is try to prevent any increases in levels or type of uses. This is why the unilateral decision by the university president, taken without notice or careful consideration for prior discussions and commitments with the local governments, generated tremendous concerns. This decision by the president was not something that the town could legally restrict, nor can they establish the safety standards that apply to airports.

Also note that the CHCCSB sites schools.

Mark C., can you add any additional info on this that you remember?

Fred (and anyone else who's interested): For a great example of biased reporting on the issue of the closure of Horace Williams Airport, go to the General Aviation News website at:

God knows who they used for their "sources." Here's a quote from the article:

"Only last year, the General Assembly passed a measure requiring UNC to operate Horace Williams Airport and continue to support flights for the Area Health Education Centers "until a replacement facility that is accessible to UNC-CH becomes operational" – meaning an entirely new airport. In its prohibition of IGX closure, the legislature estimated that a replacement airport would cost between $38 million and $65 million and need at least 10 years to become operational. In addition, no suitable replacement airport site could be identified, according to the measure.

Moeser and the university trustees want to replace the airport with the Carolina North Development, which would include new university staff offices, dormitories, and low-cost housing for professors. The Chapel Hill Town Council, which has zoning authority over the airport and any development there, has expressed serious reservations about the airport's closure, but Moeser is said to believe that the university can override any zoning ruling against it.

Moeser told GAN last year that emergency air medical service could be provided using Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), 30-some miles from Chapel Hill. He said that the average driving time from the UNC medical campus to RDU is 18 minutes. AHEC physicians said then — and now — that their medical support to the state would be reduced substantially by the closure of IGX, but will not comment for the record. One implied that the medical staff is being muzzled by university trustees. Another pointed out that his employment by UNC makes anti-closure comments unwise.

North Carolina legislators can be contacted by e-mail and fax to protest the airport closure. Contact information is at"

We have learned in the past just how biased the
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is
when it argues against closing the airport. If you believe
them, should Horace Williams Airport close, the economy of
the region will crash (bad pun) and health care in North
Carolina will be severly impacted. The reality is different;
HWA has very little impact on the local economy and the
very few AHEC health-related passengers that fly every day
can't possibly impact substantially a state whose population is 8.5 million.
Here I am not discounting the value of AHEC to the
state, rather I am saying that the air services are only a
small portion of AHEC.

Recreational flying from HWA, since the bonehead move
by the officers of the CH Flying Club several years ago to
cover up a crash and the consequential eviction by
the UNC Chancellor, has reduced to only perhaps 20 small
planes based at HWA. I do sympathize with these pilots
who have grown accustomed to the luxury of basing their
planes a mile from their homes, but the decision to close
the airport was indeed a no-brainer, as described by
two leaders of the UNC Board of Trustees.

I have been friends for many years with members of the
neighborhood groups who have attempted to close or
at least minimize the operations at HWA, but I have always
felt that the airport was their best friend. While they have
painted the alarming picture of a plane crashing into a
school, this is hardly reality. The airport now does
attract a small number of planes, but it attracts negligible
auto traffic. Any replacement of the airport by a large development
will cause huge environmental impacts to the nearby neighborhoods,
especially auto-related impacts, as the latest Carolina North
proposal shows.

The task that confronts the CH Town Council and the
Horace Williams Citizen Committee is to minimize the
environmental impact of the Carolina North development
on northern Chapel Hill. We have a golden opportunity to
do it right, to be a leader in the state, and create
an auto-minimized development about which we can be

I agree with Joe that keeping HWA for now is a great way to delay UNC/North's development.

This weekend, as I was looking at UNC's current Main campus build-out and the FPC's plans for the next 18-24 months, it occured to me that we should encourage the DTH staff to look into what is one of the largest concentrated expenditures of tax monies in NC's history.

Chris Coletta earlier opined

Regardless of what people think about the DTH's relevancy in local affairs now, we hope to be a vibrant force in the coming months, and I think giving heavy coverage to growth over the summer

Chris, I think the DTH is extremely relevant in local and state affairs. It would be a service to both local and state taxpayers if the DTH probed the current spending (appropriate/inappropriate), the relationships of contractors to both the BOT and the UNC administration, the number of changes and possibly costly change-orders made over the history of these projects, the possible "revolving" door employment aspect and all the other type issues one has when you concentrate a huge amount of state largesse with expedited development. A vetting of the current build-out should be welcomed by the current BOT/UNC administration as a good report card will only strengthen their credibility when it comes to UNC/North.

So, Chris, what will it take to get the DTH to focus on a huge story in their own backyard, a story that every other commercial media source has taken a powder on? Are they ready to "crack" what might be one of the largest stories in state history or is doing all the homework and analysis too daunting?


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