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Press Release

    North Carolina Freedom Works/CSE Battles Government Land Grab

    02/04/2005

    The United States Navy is condemning privately-owned land in Eastern North Carolina.

    More than a year ago, North Carolina FreedomWorks/CSE joined with the citizens of Beaufort and Washington counties and numerous organizations in opposition of the Navy’s proposed outlying landing field (OLF). Under the current plan, the Navy will acquire 32,000 acres of prime farmland owned by families whom have farmed their fields for generations. Many citizens, the majority of whom are seniors, will lose their generational homes.

    The loss of 32,000 acres from the local tax roles will result in a substantial tax increase for the local people. Lower land values, loss of jobs, loss of tourism, loss of future development opportunities, citizens choosing to relocate, decreased quality of life due to noise pollution, and environmental impacts are among the additional concerns. If constructed, the proposed OLF will be in the flight path of the huge waterfowl populations that inhabit the Poquoson Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Experts have stated that the resulting effect could be devastating to both pilot and bird not to mention the $80 million plus aircraft.

    Less than a week before the January 19 federal OLF hearing in Raleigh, opponents of the proposed OLF gathered in Washington County. The group’s participants represented a who’s who of environmental groups, several outdoor sporting groups, local land-owners and officials, and North Carolina FreedomWorks/CSE. The two-day symposium began with an update on the status of the proposed OLF and an update on the lawsuit filed by the citizens of Washington and Beaufort counties and several environmental groups. We enjoyed a wonderful seafood supper with the very landowners themselves, the true faces of the OLF. The faces were young and old, male and female, farmer and homeowner – generations of Americans whom have worked hard and loved hard on the land they are fighting to protect. The following morning we were treated to a tour of the Poquoson Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, led by Carolina Outdoor Journal host, Joe Albea. A strategy session focusing on the diversity of our opposition and how to combine our collective resources rounded out the two-day symposium.

    It was just after the amazing and absolutely awe-inspiring experience of having 50,000 snow geese almost directly over our heads that we learned of the Navy’s latest legal wrangling. Using the federal condemnation law, the Navy had filed paperwork to condemn property that they claim is needed for the OLF project. Several of the landowners have reported being threatened by the Navy with condemnation if they would not accept the per acre price the Navy wanted to pay them. So seems the case in the actual condemnation. The property condemned belonged to Harry McMullan III, a willing seller. An attorney for the property owner claims that the property is worth more than twice the amount the Navy plans to pay using condemnation.

    While NC FreedomWorks/CSE holds firm in our resolve that the placement of the Navy’s proposed OLF represents an extreme example of infringement of personal property rights, the Navy’s recent wrangling is perhaps even more extreme. For the Navy to invoke condemnation on a willing seller is abuse of power and abuse of the very condemnation law itself. Could there be a more disturbing infringement of the property rights of tax-paying citizens?

    Using this forum and reports at local FreedomWorks/CSE meetings, we will strive to keep you informed about this issue. Please get ready – we are going to need our grassroots army to go to work!