Northeast leaders seek Site C friends

Published 2:44 am Tuesday, September 25, 2007

By Staff
Gates County leaders oppose two potential OLF sites there
News Editor
Northeast leaders near two of the Navy’s new potential landing field sites say they’re beginning to understand what residents from Site C in Washington and Beaufort counties feel.
Brown spoke to the Washington Daily News just before a special meeting of the Gates County commissioners, which was called to discuss the potential OLF sites. He said the entire five-member commission opposes the Gates County sites.
One Gates site, referred to as the Old Railroad Grade, is near Hobbsville in the eastern part of the county. The other, referred to as the Sandbanks site, is in the west. Those sites, along with two others in northeastern North Carolina and two in the southeast, were first publicly discussed at a meeting in Raleigh last Tuesday.
Military pilots from Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia and, to a lesser extent, from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock, will use the new field to simulate night landings of F/A-18 Super Hornet jets. Leaders from both North Carolina and Virginia came to the Navy with lists of alternatives to the Washington-Beaufort counties site after ongoing criticism that is too close to Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge’s Pungo unit.
The Navy will take the next 60 days to consider North Carolina’s six new sites, and 11 others from Virginia. The five that were already on the Navy’s radar, including its favored “Site C” and one in Hyde County, will also remain under consideration.
Brown said he’s worried that an OLF in Gates County would dry up its “primary revenue stream” — property tax.
At Monday night’s meeting, one of the commissioners intended to read a letter that will be sent to all of their state and federal representatives.
“Locating an OLF site in our county would greatly disrupt the quality of life that our citizens have known and loved for generations. … Locating an OLF site in Gates County will not only eliminate our ability to tax the land occupied by the OLF site, but also will impact the perception of Gates County for future growth,” the letter reads in part.
Interim Gates County Manager Melinda Hoggard she and other officials hope to express their concerns in a meeting with Navy leaders that is tentatively set for today.