Published: Sep 15, 2012 12:00 AM
Modified: Sep 14, 2012 12:51 PM
CHAPEL HILL - UNC plans to temporarily close Horace Williams Airport to finish building an electrical ductbank and complete survey work for the planned Carolina North campus.
Airport manager Paul Burke said it could be closed from Nov. 26 to Jan. 1. He’s not sure where flights will go during that time, but travel is usually light over the holidays, he said. The airport primarily serves owners of small, private planes and business and UNC clients, with eight to 10 flights daily, he said.
University architect Anna Wu said the airport won’t close permanently until UNC is ready to build and has the required documents and approvals.
The pending closure forced MedAir, which serves the university’s Area Health Education Centers program, to move last year to a hangar at RDU General Aviation. AHEC’s six planes carry medical personnel across the state for patient care, training and other purposes five to seven times a day.
While progress on Carolina North has been slower than anticipated, crews are laying the infrastructure for utilities and greenway connections, including an underground pipe to carry methane gas from the Orange County Landfill to an electricity generator on the new campus.
The university also has taken time to consolidate and expand six conservation areas to protect mature forests, wildlife corridors and stream buffers, she said.
Wu presented the university’s annual report at a meeting Monday. The Town Council will hear the report Sept. 24.
Adam Smith, a town arborist who lives in the Glen Heights neighborhood, questioned UNC’s responsiveness to neighbors’ concerns.
The sounds of jackhammers and backhoes start early in the neighborhood, which backs up to Carolina North, and continues past the time when workers are supposed to stop, he said.
Plus, a promised walk-through never happened and university meetings last fall and spring split neighbors into smaller groups, where they might have gotten different answers, he said.
“We keep getting all these promises – you’re going to get this, you’re going to get that – but there’s no follow through,” Smith said.
Wu said she did not have immediate answers for Smith’s questions but would respond to him later.
UNC’s local relations director Linda Convissor emailed Glen Heights neighbors in June about the noise and the work. There would be a lot of truck traffic in the area, she said, but rock also was discovered in numerous places along the corridor. Carolina Conduit Systems workers are breaking up the rock as they build the utility corridor, she said. The work should start at 7 a.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. Saturdays, and end around 6 p.m. daily, she said.
UNC officials were not immediately available to answer additional questions about the work.
By November 2015, UNC plans to complete infrastructure developments, a central utility plant and the 265,000-square-foot, seven-story Collaborative Science Building at Carolina North. The law school and 200,000 square feet of multi-family housing for graduate and post-doctoral students will come later.
The research and mixed-use campus will take roughly 50 years to complete and cover 250 acres of a 1,000-acre tract about two miles north of UNC’s main campus.
The next report on its progress will be submitted after June 30, 2013, or when the first 800,000 square feet are developed, Wu said.