The District of Sechelt’s attempt to enlist local government support for its airport expansion plans hit a little turbulence at the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) last week.
With directors citing a lack of information, the community services committee on Sept. 5 gave its support — but only in principle — to the District’s plans.
Even support in principle was too much for Roberts Creek director Donna Shugar, who voted against the recommendation.
“I don’t have enough information to support it,” Shugar said.
She said there were questions in her area about the impact of expanding the District-owned airport, located at the top of Field Road in Wilson Creek.
“There is concern in my community about what kind of increased flight traffic and noise will be coming if the airport expands to get small jets, for example,” she said.
Board chair Garry Nohr said he would support “any opportunity to get funding for the Coast,” but added that he had asked Mayor John Henderson “numerous times” to appear at the regional board and brief directors on the expansion plans, to no avail.
Without having a business plan to look at, “I’m hesitant,” Nohr said, “but at the same time I feel it’s important” to back the District’s bid for senior government funding.
Nohr said he also had concerns over the impact of the proposed expansion on the region’s seaplane services.
Gibsons alternate director Lee Ann Johnson told the committee that her council had agreed at its meeting two days earlier to provide a letter of support to the District, despite concerns about lack of information and “the last-minute nature” of the request.
“While we want to see the airport have every chance of getting funding from off-Coast, we need to have information to justify that support for our communities,” Johnson said.
District of Sechelt director Darnelda Siegers confirmed that there was a business plan for the airport, as well as a confidential marketing plan, and suggested inviting Coun. Chris Moore, council’s liaison to the airport development advisory committee, to give a presentation at a future meeting.
“I’m sure he would be delighted by that,” Siegers said.
Elphinstone director Lorne Lewis said he would only be comfortable supporting the District’s request in principle.
“Because I feel like everybody else — that I’ve been blind-sided by this proposal,” Lewis said.
All but Shugar voted in favour. The committee also agreed to ask the District to send a representative to the board to outline its airport business plan.
The District’s proposed $5-million expansion plans — which include a new runway certified for commercial airline operations — are intended to add scheduled passenger, freight, courier and emergency services to the airport.
Speaking at the Sept. 3 Gibsons council meeting, airport development advisory committee member Hammy McClymont said the expansion would mean fixed-wing aircraft could do medevac flights when there is icing. Currently, he said, only the Coast Guard hovercraft can do medevacs under icing conditions.