17 April 2015

Greenbank and a Tale of Three Airports

Photo: Greenbank Airport before all the fuss

By Gord Mahaffy, COPA Flight 70, Oshawa

If you think that the concern over the proposed amendments to the National Aeronautics Act is overblown, consider this: In the space of one week there were three public meetings focused on changes to airports in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The first was in Oshawa on March 26 to consider the new Oshawa business plan which includes the Oshawa Airport.

The second was in Port Perry on March 30 to consider improvements to the Greenbank airport. The third was on March 31 to present a plan for extending the runways at Billy Bishop Toronto Island Airport (BBTIA). With the exception of a few COPA members all of these meetings were attended by people opposed to any kind of changes whatsoever and many of these people would like to see the airports closed.

There will be more comments on the developments at the BBTIA airport by members of COPA National but this article will be focused on Greenbank airport.

First some background on Greenbank. Up until 2008 it was owned and operated by Micky Jovkovic who was slowly making improvements. He planned to add hangars, pave the runway, and build a restaurant. Unfortunately Micky died tragically in August of 2008 and several years later the airport was sold to a numbered company.

While all this was happening another phenomenon was occurring driven by the explosive growth in construction in the Greater Toronto Area. The disposal of gravel being excavated from huge building projects such as the Toronto subway was proving difficult. This created a controversial industry; that of paying landowners for the privilege of dumping this fill on their land. Anyone with enough land could have truckloads of gravel dumped and make lots of money while being completely passive in the whole operation.

The downside to all of this is the damage to the environment that it causes and the noise and pollution it causes for the neighbors. If the soil is contaminated it can contaminate water supplies and cause serious health problems.

To control the effects of unrestricted dumping for profit most municipalities have strict by-laws that require the soil to be used for legitimate building purposes. Other conditions include limits on daily loads and soil testing on a regular basis.

Ah, but there is a loophole that unscrupulous operators can employ to get around municipal by- laws. If the property is an airport then it comes under federal jurisdiction and municipal by-laws don’t apply.So there exists the situation where a legitimate airport that wishes to expand their facilities can import the necessary fill and actually make some money from the process which will help defray the cost of improvements.

On the other hand there is a temptation to use an airport as a dumping ground just to collect dumping fees.

This is the situation that the Scugog Council was dealing with at their meeting on March 30. Most residents of the area believe that Greenbank airport is now just one big gravel dump and when all of the fill has been dumped in this pristine area it will simply be closed and the owners will walk away with the profits.

Less cynical people including many pilots hope that it will be completed as per plans and present Southern Ontario with a pristine, full service, state of the art airport with increased capacity for General Aviation.

When the project first started the owners of Greenbank voluntarily complied with local building regulations and agreed to pay the municipality a “Tipping Fee” for every cubic meter of fill dumped. This was enforced by a one year contract between the municipality and Greenbank.

But this contract expired on March 31 2015.

The Scugog Council extended this contract for one week and submitted a new set of restrictions for Greenbank to consider.

These new conditions include increasing the security deposit to $1 million, increasing insurance coverage to $10 million, eliminating Saturday deliveries of gravel, erecting a security fence, giving municipal inspectors full access to the site and allowing the municipality to do its own soil testing by drilling 50 foot deep wells 10 feet apart in critical areas.

If the owners of Greenbank accept these conditions then another one year contract will be signed and work may proceed. If the conditions are not acceptable then more negotiations will be needed and work will stop until an agreement can be reached.

As of this writing a new contract has not yet been signed.

2 comments:

Michael Shaw said...

Should land owners hide behind federal jurisdiction, by claiming to be an aerodrome, so they can ignore the concerns of local folks? It was this type of practice that caused Lisa to force aerodrome consultations with locals. Seems to me that Lisa might just be on the right track...Maybe she would not need to legislate if we had not been afraid to talk to locals for years.

There was a time when communities wanted aerodromes and tried to get the
feds to build them one, but noise, Greenbank type actions and even the NIMBYs (remember People or Planes, TANG) has changed that. Not that the NIMBYs don't travel too or go to a job that the rest of us would rather was elsewhere.

As a former fed civil servant that spent a great deal of time preparing Ministerial briefing books and correspondence for new runways at Vancouver, or involved
in Environmental assessments of runways at Pearson, or studying airports in
southern Ontario (essentially 905/416 areas of the GTA), all of it aimed at
public consultations, I am disappointed that COPA still seems to want to
hide. Hell, GA has a good history and story to tell, why aren't we telling
it?

Let the tar and feathers fly...

Jeff said...

Copa was used to further the numbered company that bought Greenbank airport's cause of building vertically 50' to 100' higher with imported fill !
Copa bought in hook line and sinker ?!!!
Now after independent testing this MESA of a mountain is contaminated with toxic fill!
Thanks COPA for jumping in with both feet on this one.