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Governor signs OLF legislation

RALEIGH – Signed, sealed and delivered.

Last week, North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue placed her name on legislation aimed at preventing the Navy from building an OLF (Outlying Landing Field) in Gates or Camden County.

This comes after the North Carolina Senate voted unanimously (49-0) on April 22 to ratify Senate Bill 808 – an amendment to the state’s Federal Reserve Statute.

By a landslide vote of 113-0, the North Carolina House of Representatives had earlier approved the same legislation (House Bill 613).

The House bill was filed March 16 with Representatives Annie Mobley (D-Ahoskie) and Bill Owens (D-Elizabeth City) as the primary sponsors. Local District 4 State Senator Ed Jones of Halifax County introduced the legislation on his side of the state’s General Assembly on April 20.

Now with the Governor’s signature, the legislation officially amends the state’s Federal Reservation Statute to read that “the consent of the state is not granted to the United States for acquisition, by purchase, condemnation or otherwise, of land in the state for the purpose of establishing an outlying landing field in a county or counties which have no existing military base for the purpose of supporting and training of aircraft squadrons stationed at or transient to military bases or military stations located outside of the state.”

While the legislation does not totally prohibit the Navy from seeking to construct an OLF in either Gates or Camden County, or any other county without an existing military aircraft base, it does give the state legal grounds on which to challenge the issue through the courts.

“The Navy can still come here and make an offer to purchase our land, but with this bill the state of North Carolina can say no,” said Gates County Commissioner Kenneth Jernigan. “If the Navy wants to force the issue from there, the state attorney general can step in. He will defend the state and Gates County in this issue, and he will do that at no cost to Gates County.”

“In short, what this bill does is gives the Navy another hurdle they must jump over,” Rep. Mobley said in an earlier interview. “Not that it will deter them any, but maybe this will force the Navy to keep their noise in Virginia rather than dumping it on us.”

The Navy is seeking to build an OLF, a military aircraft practice facility, in either Gates or Camden County. Three other possible OLF sites are in Virginia, one each in Southampton, Sussex and Surry counties.