Airports are in the air at Sechelt council. On March 14, council discussed plans to lease hangar sites at the Sechelt airport, and on March 21, a delegation was slated to appear before council with a proposal for a floatplane aerodrome at Sechelt wharf in Porpoise Bay.
On March 14 Sechelt’s finance, culture and economic development committee discussed a report from manager of financial services, Ben Currie, on leasing property for hangars at the Sechelt airport. The district plans to issue a “request for expression of interest” in leasing lots, with all development costs to be at the hangar owner’s expense, including lot preparation, paving, electrical servicing and (if required) septic.
Currie said that the District of Sechelt receives five to 10 inquiries a year about construction of hangars. “Our intent is to build out as money is available, so we would invest further money from the airport as it is received.” Approximately 20 5,200-square-foot properties are available to be leased at $1,500 per year.
However Councillor Mike Shanks was skeptical about offering lots without providing some estimate of the development costs involved for each lot. “I don’t believe it’s going to encourage people to want to take out a lease,” said Shanks.
The District of Sechelt is in a longstanding dilemma over the airport which currently loses money and has to be subsidized by tax dollars. Council has been reluctant to sink more tax money into infrastructure, and repeated attempts to secure grant funding have been unsuccessful.
Councillor Noel Muller stated: “Owning a plane and having a hangar and being able to operate it is more or less an elite sport, and it’s something that I don’t think we would want to pay for out of taxation.”
Mayor Bruce Milne expressed his support for the approach. “Given that we haven’t had the money to become the developer [of airport property], this a route that will at least let us see if there’s a market at this stage, and if there isn’t a market, we might have to return to the district-as-developer approach.”
Another approach to air travel was to be presented by Doug Spani, scheduled to appear as a delegation before Sechelt council on March 21 with a “government wharf proposal” from Harbour Air to build a floatplane aerodrome at the wharf in Porpoise Bay.
The proposal states: “The Town and the Sunshine Coast has transportation issues that could be relieved by providing the foundation for future seaplane traffic by providing an aerodrome run by the town itself. The cost of upgrading the wharf would be significantly less than upgrading the current airport on Field Road.”
The proposal suggests extending the existing pier and adding facilities, either on pilings or afloat, to improve aircraft amenities and possibly boating capacity as well. This would allow Harbour Air “to grow into 14 seat De Havilland Otters to help relieve transportation pressure on the Coast.”
Harbour Air suggests seeking financing from funders such as the Island Coastal Economic Trust and Western Economic Diversification.