WNCN Story – Good Job!
While we appeal the decision by Judge Shannon Joseph to dismiss our case, we can focus on the broader and more principled issue here, especially for University of North Carolina Officials (UNC System President, the NCSU Chancellor, or their designees). Do they practice what they teach? System-wide, The University of North Carolina, of which NCSU is a part, teaches conservation, sustainability, and ethics.
We are appealing a ruling on finer legal points, the letter of the law, but there is little doubt about the intent of the law. The intent is written right into the North Carolina Constitution and the North Carolina Environmental Policy Act. University of North Carolina Officials are ignoring the intent of the law and standing, precariously, on the sharp divide between the intent of the law and their narrow interpretation of the letter of the law.
In granting the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, Judge Shannon R. Jospeh wrote:
This implies that she recognized that the heart of the matter is the wisdom, or lack thereof, of selling Hofmann Forest. She rendered no opinion on whether our allegations are true or not. Her ruling was whether or not we were entitled to halt the sale or force the University to comply with the letter of the law. However, the broader, more principled issue still stands. It is obvious on reading that the intent of Article XIV, Section 5 of the North Carolina Constitution and the North Carolina Environmental Policy Act (“SEPA”) are to protect and preserve public lands and the environment. Further, the UNC System Policy, derived from and giving guidance on SEPA compliance, also has similar principles.
It should be incumbent on the University Officials, under the intent of the Constitution of this State, the intent of SEPA, and their own Policy regarding SEPA compliance, to do the right thing, the wise thing, and require an Environmental Assessment of this sale. The UNC System Policy says the UNC System President, the NCSU Chancellor, or their designees, may determine that environmental documents under SEPA are required in any case where one of the exceptions to their own Policy is present. In this case, numerous exceptions to their own Policy are present and obvious. The fact that numerous exceptions are present and obvious should create a higher responsibility for the University Officials to carry out the intent and not just the letter of the law, rules, and their own Policies.
Among these exceptions are:
1. The proposed activity could cause significant changes in industrial, commercial, residential, silviculture, or agricultural land-use concentrations or distributions which would be expected to create adverse water quality, air quality, or groundwater impacts, or affect long-term recreational benefits, shellfish, wildlife, or their natural habitats.
2. The proposed activity has indirect effect or is part of cumulative effects not generally covered in the approval process for state action and that may result in a potential risk to human health or the environment.
3. The proposed activity is of such an unusual nature or has such widespread implications that an uncommon concern for its environmental effects has been expressed to the University or the constituent institution.
4. The proposed activity may have a potential for significant, adverse, and direct effects on sensitive areas.
University Officials should set an exemplary standard and practice the principles their own Policies advise and their classes teach. The University teaches conservation, sustainability, and ethics. University Officials should show their commitment to these core values by their actions and immediately require that an Environmental Assessment be performed for the sale of Hofmann Forest, whether it is required by the letter of the law or not (a point which we have not conceded).
The decision has been made to appeal Judge Shannon R. Joseph’s ruling to dismiss our case. Obviously, we were disappointed with the dismissal of our case and do not agree with the decision. However, there is a broader and more principled issue here, especially for University Officials. Do they practice what they teach?
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS
FREDERICK W. CUBBAGE, RONALD W. SUTHERLAND,. PhD, RICHARD “BARNY” BERNARD, JR., JAMES GREGORY, and JOHN EDDY, Plaintiffs,
THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE ENDOWMENT FUND OF NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY AT RALEIGH and NC STATE NATURAL RESOURCES FOUNDATION, INC., Defendants.
IN THE GENERAL COURT OF JUSTICE, SUPERIOR COURT DIVISION, WAKE COUNTY, Filed 2013 NOV 22, 2:27PM, 13 CVS 12884
This matter came on for hearing during the 12 November 2013 civil session of Wake County Superior Court. Plaintiffs later submitted a Supplemental Response to Motions to Dismiss, to which Defendants objected. Also in response to Plaintiffs’ supplemental submission, defendant NC State Natural Resources Foundation moved for sanctions pursuant to Rule 11 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff filed a written response to the Objection and Motion.
“I’m going to be real honest with you here. I always am,” Woodson said. “We can’t control everything that happens to the land after we sell it, but we could control the way it was sold, and finding a buyer that had the intent to manage it in a way consistent with the way it’s managed now … Twenty years down the road, I can’t predict what will be happening there and, candidly, if we restrict with covenants the way a person used it in perpetuity, no one would buy it.”
Technician: “So to you, Chancellor Woodson, we apologize. We apologize for not doing the research we should’ve to realize that the conservation of the Hofmann Forest was never a priority for you.”
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