The District of Sechelt is looking at ways to raise $4.5 million for its airport expansion without funding from the province or increases in property tax, Coun. Chris Moore told Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) directors last week.
“We’re trying to figure a way to finance this without going to the public purse,” Moore told the community services committee on Oct. 10.
The District had hoped the province would become a funding partner on the project, but Moore said he was “less inclined to see that now,” after pitching the plan to officials at last month’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.
“So we are looking at other ways to generate $4.5 million,” he said.
Moore said the District’s airport development advisory committee, which he chairs, is looking at pre-selling a sufficient number of lots in the airport’s planned industrial park and airpark development to cover the cost of servicing the two subdivisions and the expansion.
“We would have to absorb or pre-sell a certain number of lots before we would pull the trigger on servicing,” he said, adding the committee is finalizing cost estimates for the two subdivisions.
The Sechelt Airport expansion project would see the runway extended from 2,600 feet (780 metres) to 4,000 feet (1,200 metres) to accommodate daily fixed-wing passenger flights, freight cargo, courier and medivac services.
“Sechelt is the largest community in B.C. with no airport scheduled service, period,” Moore said. “We have no road connection to the Lower Mainland and probably the biggest hot button right now is the 15 days per year on average we have no way of getting people off the Coast” (for medical evacuation, due to icing).
The committee’s goal is to establish a Dash 8 passenger service that would schedule six flights daily, connecting to major flights from the Lower Mainland.
With Roberts Creek on the airport’s flight path, director Donna Shugar asked Moore to quantify the total increase in air traffic expected after the expansion.
“My answer is kind of dependent on the businesses we attract,” Moore said.
When pressed, he said: “I’m not trying to duck it. I don’t know.”
Responding to concerns from Egmont/Pender Harbour director Frank Mauro about the impact of the expansion on Coast seaplane businesses, Moore said seaplane companies are well aware of the District’s plans and “they would actually experience an uptake in their operations” because the market would expand.
Elphinstone director Lorne Lewis asked Moore if the District was looking at selling airport development bonds, and Moore said that approach is also being considered as an alternate funding source.
The plan envisions development of 61 hectares of adjacent industrial land, as well as an airpark where pilots could live and store their planes onsite, which Moore said is a popular option for flyers in Alberta and parts of the U.S.
While the intent of the expansion is to have an airport that better serves the region and makes a modest profit, the aim is also to find a way to “fire up the commercial-industrial tax base for the District,” Moore said.
“We believe the airport is essential to make that happen.”
Moore also presented the District’s plans to Gibsons council on Oct. 15.
The airport business plan, marketing plan and info sheet on the expansion can be found at www.district.sechelt.bc.ca.