Society delivers ‘roadmap’ for airport development

The Osoyoos Airport Development Society tabled a strategic roadmap Monday that includes a lengthened runway and other improvements it wants the Town to embrace to develop a “General Aviation” facility for the community.

The roadmap — in the form of a draft Osoyoos Airport Strategic Plan — was prepared by Vancouver-based InterVISTAS Consulting and delivered to Council Monday morning.

It identifies potential airport development opportunities and establishes immediate, short-and long-term timeframes for reaching strategic goals.

“We work with airports of all sizes all across Canada and we’ve kind of seen what works and what doesn’t work,” said IntraVISTAS’ Alex Welch. “What doesn’t really work is when you try and come up with a plan that focuses too much on the vision. It’s too long-term.

“You’ll see in our report that we really try to strike a balance between talking about the vision . . . but we’ve also identified some short-term and even immediate opportunities that could be very easily implemented that are kind of the next steps along the path.”

Chief among those first steps are developing a governance structure for the airport’s operation — either establishing a society similar to that which oversees Desert Park or a skills-based advisory board that answers to Council — clearing airport land and making other improvements and continuing to look for funding opportunities.

The big step forward would be extending the existing runway — which is currently about 440 metres — to 1,070 metres and eventually to 1,200 metres.

To accomplish that, the runway would be extended to the south — about 150 metres — and a right-of-way would be acquired to the north of the airport, which consists of agricultural lands, for an additional 293-metre extension.

Mr. Welch explained these first steps would start the airport along the road to general aviation status, which means it would become a base for various flight-related operations, including instruction, business travel and other law enforcement, medical and agricultural applications.

“It really is the building block for an airport,” he told Council. “It’s analogous to small businesses in a town. Without all the small businesses, you can’t actually support (an) economy.) They create a stable base for activity.”

Providing for this ” fundamental building block” would pave the way for larger businesses and economic development at the Osoyoos Airport, the consultants said.

The report suggests, however, that future growth is restricted by nearby industrial lots and agricultural properties and resident concerns about additional traffic, environmental concerns and a fear improvements will come at a tax cost to the community.

Coun. CJ Rhodes addressed the agricultural property headache, wondering if it was worth “spending millions” and jumping through numerous hoops to acquire Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) property.

But the consultants suggested the proposition might not as difficult as Council perceives.

“The good thing about having an ALR is it’s not houses,” explained Mr. Welch. “If it was houses or office buildings, that is a proposition that will never work because it’s just so expensive.

“Really, you only need the runway where the aircraft land. All the fields and stuff around it is just space that you need to secure the area. You can grow crops there and many airports do.”

The report has a community genesis, the funding coming from a local source.

“The Osoyoos Credit Union was kind enough to give us a community giving grant at the end of last year,” explained Glen Harris, the society’s chairman.

He later added the airport expansion would benefit more than just a few pilots and industry-related businesses that would populate the airport.

“I see it as air-access helping to develop this community into a four-season community and not just a two-season community,” he told Council.

“The rubber-tire traffic just doesn’t want to choose to come from Vancouver or Calgary — and even if they fly to Kelowna or Penticton, shuttling them the 45 minutes is actually quite a barrier.”

A copy of the report is available here.


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