March 19, 2021 By Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times
WINGHAM — The Richard W. LeVan Airport will be severed from the surrounding land in a move to reduce surplus property owned by the township.
A report prepared by Jamie McCarthy, North Huron’s director of public works, outlined the airport operations and plans for the severance.
Staff was directed by council to sever 77 acres of airport property along with an additional 15-acre parcel, a combined total of 92 acres, and obtain an appraisal for the severed lands.
They were then directed to proceed with the disposal of the 92 acres through direct advertising and with the assistance of a professional agency.
The airport includes a total of 448.88 acres of property comprised of: 77.81 acres for Airport Operations, 234.49 acres of agricultural lands (rented out annually), and 136.58 acres of woodlot.
The report said that airport use is limited. In 2020, the facility had five recorded aircraft visits excluding APEX Helicopter activity. It was acknowledged that this low activity is partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the last three years, the average number of aircraft visits to the airport is 20. The facility also had an estimated additional 2,600 movements per year by the Air Cadet Gliders Program.
North Huron staff consulted with Explorer Solutions to determine an appropriate area of land to sever to ensure airport operations at the airport were not compromised.
Explorer Solution’s recommendation to staff was to ensure the severed aviation lands comply with Transport Canada’s TP-312 5th Edition rules and regulations.
They also recommended the severed lands allow for the development and certification of non-precision approaches. More specifically, they recommended the proposed boundaries of the severed lands allow for a 75-metre clearance on each side of the runway center line and a minimum of 60-metre from the runway threshold of each runway.
They also recommended approximately 15 acres be included as part of the severed lands to provide a future owner with the opportunity to expand aviation activities including hangars and associated movement areas.
Contractual obligations to address hangar property leases may add significant costs to the plan.
Article 6.15 of the hangar lease agreements states that if the township initiates termination of the leases, they are responsible for one of the following:
1. Purchase of the hangars at fair market value; or,
2. Purchase of the hangars at the depreciated capital cost (whichever of the two is lower); or,
3. In the event that agreement on fair market value cannot be reached, the cost or physically removing the structures shall be shared by both the tenant and the landlord.
The report said, “If the hangar owners wish to continue operating at the airport, it is possible the transfer of these leases can be incorporated into a sales agreement with a future owner.
If the hangar owner(s) wish not to continue operating at the airport, it is advisable to seek legal advice as to the Township’s contractual obligations.”
Staff recommended that the ORNGE air ambulance services continue to be available at the airport.
Once council has reviewed all offers and staff have negotiated the key terms and conditions of the disposition, a staff report will be brought forward to council seeking authorization to sign a purchase and sale agreement.
Staff recommended that the remaining agriculture and woodlot lands not be declared surplus to North Huron’s needs, and they were directed to present a report at a future meeting with additional information for council’s consideration.