By Mike Anderson
Sutton Airport Development Inc., which proposes building a civil aviation aerodrome in Pefferlaw, submitted its final summary report to Transport Canada on March 29.
Transport Canada has 30 days to review the report, so a decision is expected on or before April 28.
If Transport Minister Omar Alghabra decides not to comment, the aerodrome is a go, and construction could proceed this summer.
However, If Minister Alghabra decides that the project is not in the public interest, the proposal is effectively dead in the water.
The final report, a whopping 592 pages, includes a list of interested parties notified of the proposed aerodrome work, including the Town of Georgina and the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation (CGIFN), as well as a summary of comments and objections received from those interested parties, including residents.
According to the report, the proponent received 123 comments from interested parties; 97 objected to the aerodrome; three expressed conditional support; two had no objection; 21 requested more information.
The top five concerns mentioned in the comments where: 1) contaminated fill (mentioned 85 times); 2) Aircraft noise (mentioned 65 times); 3) Surface water pollution (mentioned 56 times); 4) Wildlife/endangered species (mentioned 55 times); 5) Road Congestion (mentioned 55 times).
Other concerns included wetlands/groundwater impacts, agricultural/farmland area loss, and light pollution.
While residents repeatedly expressed concerns about the proponent’s lack of consultation and their apparent connections to the waste management industry – leading some to call the aerodrome a fill operation in disguise – those concerns have largely fallen on deaf ears at Transport Canada.
In a letter to PAR spokesperson Karen Wolfe, Transport Canada said it has no authority or jurisdiction over fill movement and environmental impacts.
“Please note that Transport Canada is not a land-use authority,” the letter reads.
“Aerodromes bringing in fill must continue to comply with the applicable federal Canadian Aviation Regulations. The Regulations do not address the bringing in of fill, the quantify of fill, the trucking operations, and other aspects of fill that may affect surrounding landowners.”
Georgina Council, frustrated with Transport Canada’s process, which allows a proponent to bypass municipal zoning bylaws and environmental protections, passed a resolution on April 13 calling on the federal government to review and update its aerodrome approvals legislation.
The resolution was forwarded to Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport, Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and several members of parliament, including York-Simcoe MP Scot Davidson.
Davidson told the Post that he had several off-line discussions with Minister Alghabra, and he is hopeful the Minister will reject the proposal.
“I have to be a believer. And I will be disappointed if I don’t see a favourable outcome. It’s just not in the public interest,” he said.
Davidson, like Georgina Council, would also like to see the federal government reform its legislation governing aerodrome approvals.
He fears more municipalities could be targeted by fill operators and end up with aerodromes that become dumping sites, like Burlington, Tottenham and Greenbank.
He wants municipalities like Georgina to have a bigger say in the approval process.
But more importantly, he wants Transport Canada to filter out bogus applications.
“There has to be full disclosure and full transparency,” he said.
“They have to have merit. And they have to make sense.”
Davidson would also like to see the federal government require proponents to post a performance bond before they’re allowed to build an aerodrome.
“Why not have people post a bond if they’re going to build an airport?”
“That way, you can’t bring in a hundred thousand loads of fill and then wash your hands of it and walk away.”
“Well, you can. But your bond posted for $20 million; we will take that.”
“That way, you will filter out who’s in the game and who’s not.”
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