Lease vs. Sale: What Property Means for RDU


The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority recently issued a Request for Proposals for the leasing of the three undeveloped parcels pictured above.

Keeping you connected and powering our region’s economy are two things we get excited about at RDU. Our airport is built to serve the community and we take that commitment seriously, that’s why we have carefully considered various land use requests we’ve received in recent months regarding airport property adjacent to Umstead Park.

As part of the Vision 2040 master planning process, the Airport Authority received a request from The Conservation Fund to purchase some airport property. Our long-standing practice is to not sell land. This is necessary in order to comply with a myriad of federal laws and regulations, have adequate space for future development, and just does not make good business sense.  So let’s dive a little deeper into why we do not sell property.

Safety is Always Our First Priority

Federal Regulations prohibit airports from taking actions that could conflict with maintaining the safety, efficiency, and utility of the airport. Like airports across the country, federal laws and regulations require RDU to maintain large areas to make sure airport property is preserved or developed in a way that does not compromise safety.

We Must Comply with Federal Regulations

RDU and our owning bodies – the counties of Wake and Durham, and the cities of Raleigh and Durham – are required to prevent the creation of incompatible land uses to remain in compliance with federal grant assurances. This means that if RDU was to sell land that became a park, school, or residential dwelling, the Authority would violate those federal requirements.

A Sale is Forever

A sale is forever – once land is sold, it is near impossible to recapture. The Authority cannot predict all the future needs of RDU or how it will need property to accommodate these future needs. The only way we can maintain flexibility to meet future needs is by keeping ownership and control of the surrounding land so that your airport experience can remain exceptional for years to come.

We Need Space to Spread Our Wings

Planes require a significant amount of space to operate safely. Airports need ample protection zones around terminals and runways to help mitigate noise and other impacts, while ensuring safety for travelers, airport-based staff, and members of the community.

Finally, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) must approve every sale of airport land and given the continued growth of our region, we doubt they would want us to sell any property.

We DO Consider Land Leases

While we do not sell property, we will consider land lease proposals that make good business sense. Lease agreements give the Airport Authority extra flexibility to respond to future demand and land use requirements. They also provide an ongoing funding stream to help keep our operating costs affordable to our airline partners.

Currently, the Airport Authority is soliciting proposals to lease one, two or three parcels of airport property adjacent to Umstead Park. If you are interested, please find the Request for Proposal here.

About rdukristie

Kristie VanAuken is the Vice President of Communications and Community Affairs for the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority.
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22 Responses to Lease vs. Sale: What Property Means for RDU

  1. DH says:

    Wow. Unbelievable.

  2. Paul Scrutton says:

    rdukristie – I would endeavour that a lease to a quarry would be a forever ‘sale’ also. You’d be left with a large hole in the ground. You probably couldn’t lease the land after the mineral is extracted or sell it. Sad short term gain.

  3. James Rhew says:

    Ms. VanAuken:

    Please consider all options carefully. According to RDU’s plan, the 105 acre “parcel 1” will be leased to be quarried. At the end of the lease term, how will this land be useful or enhance the safety of the airport?

    Recently, the Conservation Fund has offered to purchase this land outright. Please consider not only the financial gain but also the potential of a compatible use land buffer and the permanent recreational benefit to the community.

    James Rhew

  4. hugpehotmailcom says:

    Leasing RDU Parcel 1 for a Rock Quarry is a crime against Nature. Conservation is designed to protect the land from development. RDU WAKE UP. You will make millions of dollars.

  5. Jim Citizen says:

    Just leave it be. The community uses this property for its physical and mental wellbeing. That’s more important than any potential revenue stream the RDU airport may gain from leasing it out. It’ll be ok! Let’s think about quality of life and not quantity of dollars, m’kay?

  6. cmmoorman says:

    I have a few questions regarding the NEPA process for the RFP because I found the RFP to be very vague regarding NEPA.

    1. I’m sure the RDU airport authorities are aware that the site is potentially contaminated due to the WARD Transformer superfund site ( thus any disturbance or removal of sediments in the area will require extra monitoring, care and caution. As the EPA states, the area southwest of the ward transformer site is contaminated and this would include all the parcels in the lease. I think an environmental impact assessment would be required before any proposal could be accepted since Crabtree Creek is a major tributary that runs through the parcel and drains to the Neuse River which serves as a drinking water supply for several municipalities downstream of Raleigh. How will authorities ensure that any development of this property does not release additional PCBs into the environment?

    2. In addition, I hope that the authorities carefully consider any additional stormwater runoff that may result from development of this property. An increase in stormwater runoff is inevitable when landuse is changed from forest to any other landuse. I would think that officials would want to make sure any change in landuse is carefully mitigated since crabtree creek already floods Crabtree mall during heavy rains. How will authorities ensure that development of these parcels does not increase flooding downstream in Crabtree Creek, especially to Crabtree Valley Mall?

    3. Finally,I believe the property must adhere to Phase II stormwater rules which requires development to mitigate for water quality. I hope the authorities consider how the development may impact water quality in Crabtree Creek, particularly impacts to suspended sediment and nutrient loads, since this is required as part of the Clean Water Act. How will the authorities ensure that any development does not increase the sediment and nutrient loads in Crabtree Creek or cause any other violations of the Clean Water Act?

    I’m curious to know who will be reviewing the environmental impacts of each proposals and how the review process will address this. I believe the RFP needs to clarify this.

    Michelle Moorman, Ph.D.
    Certified Ecologist and resident, Wake County

  7. Ed Barnes says:

    I have provided several comments throughout this process of discussions about the fate of the land adjacent to Umstead Park, Crabtree Lake and RDU – all in favor of preserving the land in a way that can generate income for RDU. It seems this could be accomplished using a lease approach, just as the land at Crabtree has been leased to Wake County. In all of the comments posted here to date, and in the other public forums, 90%+ of the comments I have seen support preserving the land in a natural state. These are public lands, and the public should have a say in how they are used. Does RDU have a plan to ensure that proposals are received that reflect the public desire for the use of their land?

  8. ConsumerRep says:

    How about the Conservation Fund leasing all three parcels at market rates?

    For SELC employees and Orange County residents a $30 airport improvement charge could be levied on each passenger.

    Everyone wins!

  9. Natalie Lew says:

    Please consider the legacy of the airport to this community. Will your legacy be one that meets the needs and desires of the entire growing community for years to come or be a legacy that meets the needs and desires of just a few in this community for just a short time? This community is growing fast. In addition to ensuring that the airport functions and expands as needed, we also must keep the land resources that make our area a desirable community to live in. We must not unnecessarily destroy land resources. The citizens of Wake Co., Durham Co., Raleigh, and Durham are owners of the airport. So, RDU Forest is our resource, especially since it is NOT needed directly for aviation use. Us owners know that putting a quarry on the airport land destroys an irreplaceable asset. There are already 2 other quarries within a few miles of the airport, one of which is currently expanding. There are several other options for expanding parking at the airport that do not destroy RDU Forest and do no KILL the spirit of the local community. The community has present you with a viable option. This is the option you should choose. How the community remembers you in the years and decades to come depends on the legacy you choose with this land that is NOT needed for direct aviation use. Choosing a quarry is not a positive legacy. Choosing RDU Forest is a positive legacy.

  10. K Hering says:

    a few thoughts:

    1. The lease vs sale argument when evaluating land for quarry use is a red herring. Favoring a lease to a quarry over large lump sum (fair price) sale for the Old Fellow track makes little sense and doesn’t pass the smell test. A hole in the ground will have no lasting value and is basically a sale when the ink is dry.

    2. Currently, the only access to Old Reedy Creek Rd is from the south (Weston) and includes two bridges. Just past the bridge over Rt 40, the road turns to a gravel surface until it leads to the Umstead Park gate. The bridge over Crabtree Creek is currently very narrow and has railings made of wood (cars generally pass in one direction at a time to accommodate the many walkers, joggers & riders that cross the bridge). I would expect that the entire road, as well as at least one bridge, would need substantial upgrades/repairs to accommodate commercial traffic (esp large trucks). Who is going to foot that bill? taxpayers?

    3. The Old Fellows track is situated in an area that makes it difficult for commercial traffic to utilize and appears unlikely to be able to serve the airport directly in the future. It is bordered by Umstead Park to the north, Crabtree Creek and Rt 40 to the South. It has no direct highway access (and unlikely to accommodate such access) and road access would need extensive roadwork.

    As evidenced by comments during the vision2040 process, public forums and participation of many local organizations, a large (and growing) contingent of the public would like to see this land utilized in a manner that supports the larger community. I think most of us also understand that RDU has an obligation to make decisions that make sense for RDU in the long term. It’s fairly clear that a quarry does not align with the goal of creating long-term value for RDU nor the community.

  11. Kevin says:

    How is creating a quary keep the land for future use? A bunch of speaking in circles and not really answering any of the questions brought up.

    You really dont listen to the community.

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