Monday, March 20, 2006


UNC research center needs FAA clearance before taking off

March 17, 2006

MANTEO, N.C. — Dare County has given 40 acres to the University of North Carolina for a coastal research center, but now the Federal Aviation Administration must step in before the project can lift off.

The reason: An agreement reached after World War II that limits the use of the property to aviation purposes.

The land given for the University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute is not part of the neigbhoring Dare County Regional Airport, but is covered by restrictions in the original deed, county attorney Bobby Outten said.

The FAA must agree for the land to be used for any purpose other than aviation.

"The FAA has to be satisfied," Outten said. "This isn't a fight. Everybody knows that the FAA restriction has to be removed."

The U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Navy deeded the airport to the county after World War II, according to information that former airport director George Speake provided in a March 2005 letter. The land was transferred in three parts, and the airport has included all of them, including the recently donated 40 acres, in its layout plans since 1962, Speake said.

The transfer of the parcel in 2004 surprised airport officials, said Connie Brothers, the head of the county Airport Authority.

"At the very beginning, we sort of said, 'What?'" Brothers said. "But it wasn't ours to give. This donation is not something we have a say in."

Right now, the Coastal Studies Institute, established in 2003, is operating out of an office in Manteo and a research laboratory in Nags Head. The institute will conduct marine science research as an extension of the state's university system, focusing on maritime history, nautical archaeology, environmental monitoring, estuarine ecology and tourism, and coastal resources management.

The institute will ask the General Assembly for $30 million for capital improvements during the coming legislative session and has already hired an architectural team and a construction manager, said its director, Nancy White. The deed restrictions shouldn't delay work on the center, she said.

"The county is giving us the land, and we are incredibly grateful," she said, "and we think it just has to be worked through."


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