Currituck joins Camden in fight against OLF

Currituck County will aid Camden County in contesting a proposed Navy airfield that would send jets over Moyock, Currituck’s most populated community and an area officials see as an emerging industrial hub.

Last month, Camden County hired Raleigh law firm Poyner & Spruill, which has assigned to the case five attorneys with expertise in military affairs, government administration and environmental law, said John Morrison, attorney for Camden.

“We want a place at the table now while the study is going on,” Morrison said.

Costs would reach about $250,000 for initial studies and could climb over a million if the counties filed suit, said Currituck County Manager Dan Scanlon.

Currituck would contribute a percentage to a limit, he said.

One of five proposed outlying landing field sites lies within Camden County, while nearby Moyock, the most populated and fastest-growing area in Currituck County, lies in noise zones and under flight paths between Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach and the proposed OLF. Three schools and a fourth proposed school could be bothered by jet noise, Scanlon said.

Plans are in the works to build a public and private sewer system in Moyock that has already attracted interest from several companies. Currituck has sought for years to diversify from the tourism industry. Moyock is seen as offering the best chance for it.

“Even though the site is physically in Camden, the impact will be just as much or more in Currituck,” Scanlon said.

Currituck expects the Poyner & Spruill services to include impact studies on Moyock residents and economics, Scanlon said.

On March 18, a meeting is scheduled to help start a citizens group in Currituck to oppose the OLF, much like those in Camden and Gates, said Currituck Commissioner Janet Taylor.

“We’re only five,” she said. “We want to see 5,000 bombarding Washington, D.C., with phone calls and letters.”

Elizabeth City does not have the money to contribute to the OLF fight, said spokeswoman Vivian White. Pasquotank and Gates counties remain undecided.

“We’re absolutely going to be involved with the fight,” said Gates County Commissioner David Brown. “We just haven’t decided what that’s going to be yet.”

The Gates County citizens group has teamed with FreedomWorks, a non profit organization that opposes the taking of private property by government.

The Navy announced in January that sites in Camden and Gates counties and three in Virginia would undergo an environmental study that could last about two years. After the study, a site would be chosen for an airfield where F/A-18 Hornets would practice simulated aircraft-carrier landings.

Poyner & Spruill attorneys can influence what the study includes, Morrison said. The county has not authorized a lawsuit, he said.

Counties in the region have come out against an outlying landing field, but not every county can afford to hire a private law firm, Morrison said.

The five Poyner & Spruill attorneys have offered a 15 percent discount but still charge fees ranging from about $200 to $300 an hour, Morrison said.

When the Navy announced five potential OLF sites in northeastern North Carolina seven years ago, several counties, including Washington, each contributed $25,000 toward a lobbying firm. Later a site in Washington County was picked.

The law firm of Kennedy Covington in Charlotte offered to represent the counties, charging only travel expenses, said Washington County Manager David Peoples. The bill came to $1.1 million. Washington was billed $100,000, Peoples said. Also, opposition included a citizens group and environment groups, which hired the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Within five miles of the Washington County site was a wildlife refuge where thousands of migratory waterfowl wintered.

“That was our lifesaver, to be honest with you,” Peoples said. “We rode those birds to the grave and to the resurrection.”

In January, Washington County was taken off the list of possible OLF sites.

Kennedy Covington won awards and attracted other clients as a result of the Washington OLF case, Peoples said.

Jeff Hampton, (252) 338-0159,