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Airport: More plane traffic coming

HIGH POINT — Piedmont Triad International Airport officials have a message for the city: More aircraft traffic over north High Point is coming, so keep new housing out of the way.

The City Council is considering whether to open more than 1,000 acres to new residential development, which has been prohibited there for about 20 years because of noise from overhead flights to and from the airport.

PTIA is OK with the city’s proposal but, in a recent briefing, PTIA Executive Director Kevin Baker made clear its opposition to a request from a local developer to further loosen the city restrictions to allow for housing closer to the airport.

“We passionately protect the approaches to all of the runways, because that’s where we could potentially get into problems moving forward,” Baker told the council. “Every residential unit that gets constructed becomes a risk to us.”

City staff is recommending reducing the airport overlay district from 11,835 acres to 9,042 acres based on PTIA’s 2040 master plan forecast. If approved by the council, the changes would allow new residential development in about 1,400 acres that are far enough away from the runway approaches not to draw opposition from PTIA leaders.

But developer Barry Siegal has asked the council to allow apartments to be constructed on property he bought last year on Sandy Ridge Road just south of the airport that’s within a zone where only industrial development is allowed.

He argues that the restrictions are preventing the city from gaining much-needed multifamily housing. Much of the airport overlay district is in Guilford County and can be developed under its regulations, Siegal said, which would preclude the city from annexing it for commercial or industrial growth.

Baker urged the council to reject Siegal’s request and instead adopt staff’s recommendations, which would keep the ban on new residential construction in place within the zone of Siegal’s proposed project.

He said the airport has received 481 noise complaints from the High Point area since 2018. The more housing that is permitted near the airport, the more likely it is that residents could file litigation that could make it harder to attract major economic development projects such as the FedEx air cargo hub, which took nearly four years to obtain environmental approvals, according to PTIA.

“In today’s world, we lose that project, probably, because you can’t tell a company, ‘We’ll be ready for you in 42 months,’ and expect to have a win,” Baker said.

The airport has an annual impact of $8.6 billion on the local economy, supporting 30,000 jobs, about 8,600 of which are on the airport property itself, according to an N.C. Department of Transportation study.

Baker said more development, including Boom Supersonic, which plans to make passenger jets at the airport, is coming.

“Boom is taking 65 acres. We have 1,000 acres of land, and we’re actively marketing that and will continue to do that,” he said. “I’m quite convinced that in a year, we’re going to have other projects we’ll be talking about.”

Police: Drug packaging mimics legal candy, snacks
  • Updated

HIGH POINT — Federal, state and local law enforcement are targeting an insidious practice by narcotics peddlers: Disguising drugs through packaging that mimics designs of popular candy and other snack items.

N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall joined High Point Police Chief Travis Stroud Monday afternoon during a briefing at the city police headquarters to discuss the results of a recent sting operation that used trademark infringement laws to target illegitimate activity.

“They are clearly here to deceive,” Stroud said while standing next to a table with dozens of packages seized by law enforcement.

On Oct. 20 and 27, local police joined agents from the N.C. Department of the Secretary of State, N.C. Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force, N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement Division and U.S. Department of Homeland Security to check 20 High Point tobacco and vape stores for trademark violations. Store owners and employees voluntarily surrendered more than 8,800 products and were issued a warning, but they could have faced charges ranging from misdemeanors to felonies, depending on the value of the products.

Police Lt. Kim Rieson, who headed the operation for the department, said the stores were put on notice that they would be charged next time police find such products. Rieson estimated that 10% to 15% of the packages seized contained narcotics — including foods containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — or hallucinogens.

The cost of the surrendered items totaled $49,896, according to High Point police.

Several stores also were selling cans and bottles with hidden compartments, which are commonly used to hide narcotics, law enforcement officers say. Others were selling products designed to fool drug screen urine tests.

Packaging that Marshall said violated trademarks included ones similar to products made by Frito-Lay, Kellogg’s, Disney, Oreo, Sour Patch Kids and the Girl Scouts, and she said it could entice children.

Proceeds from sales through counterfeit packaging fuels drug cartels and human traffickers across the nation and globe, said Marshall, whose office handles trademark enforcement in North Carolina.

Marshall said that there’s a cottage black market industry in setting up counterfeit packaging manufacturing operations in the United States and overseas.

Felons arrested on slew of charges
  • Updated

HIGH POINT — Police have arrested a local man and woman with extensive criminal records on an array of narcotics charges and say they were selling drugs from a house near an elementary school.

After receiving information about two people selling crack cocaine and heroin at a house in the 2500 block of Triangle Lake Road in the eastern part of the city — only about a block from Triangle Lake Montessori Elementary School — High Point Police Department officers executed a search warrant Thursday morning and seized more than 1.3 ounces of heroin, 2.3 ounces of crack cocaine, 29 Suboxone patches, a loaded AR-15 rifle, a shotgun and more than $2,500 in cash.

Joshua Demario Cureton, 31, and LaKisha Nicole Harris, 40, both of High Point were arrested and charged with trafficking heroin, trafficking cocaine, possession with intent to sell or deliver a Schedule I controlled substance, possession with intent to sell or deliver a Schedule II controlled substance, maintaining a dwelling for drug activity near a school or day care facility, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a firearm by a felon. Police also served Harris with three warrants on charges of failure to appear in court.

Police have arrested Cureton nine other times since early 2018 — six of them after he served two years in prison from September 2019 to October 2020 — and has an arrest and conviction record dating to 2009, according to police and the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

Cureton previously has been convicted on charges including assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, assault by strangulation, kidnapping, resisting a police officer and multiple narcotics offenses.

Harris was convicted in 2017 on charges of trafficking and selling a controlled substance on school property, DPS said. Since 2010 she also has been convicted on charges that include assault, narcotics offenses and obtaining property by false pretenses.

Curfew lifted for Capitol riot defendant

A Thomasville woman facing charges in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot and storming of the U.S. Capitol no longer has to obey a curfew, but she now is required to get mental health treatment.

The lawyer for Laura Lee Steele, 53, a former High Point Police Department officer, filed a request on Thursday to remove the curfew.

The filing includes a statement from Steele’s pretrial supervision officer, John Campbell: “Ms. Steele has remained in compliance with all terms and conditions of her release. I would have no objections to the electronic monitoring condition of her supervision being removed.”

Steele’s lawyer, Peter Cooper, wrote, “The fact that she has been so perfect on release would suggest that the conditions as currently set constitute a level of supervision not necessary to address the Court’s concerns.”

Steele was arrested in February 2021 but in late March 2021 was allowed to post bond to await trial at home. In September she was released from home confinement but was required to be home each day between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

On Friday, Judge Amit Mehta of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed to ending that requirement and ordered mental health treatment, which was recommended by Campbell.

Among the remaining conditions on Steele are that she not have any contact with others connected to Jan. 6 or access the internet.

Steele joined the Oath Keepers militia group shortly before Jan. 6, and she is accused of participating with a number of other members who stormed up the east side of the Capitol, entered the building and eventually reached the Capitol Rotunda.

She is not part of the group of Oath Keepers currently on trial in Washington on charges that include seditious conspiracy. She is charged with conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting, conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging his duty, destruction of government property and aiding and abetting, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, aiding and abetting civil disorder, and tampering with documents.

The group of Oath Keepers that includes Steele is set to go to trial in early February.


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