November 8, 2021 By Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times
WINGHAM – North Huron council has given its approval, in principle, to an agreement of purchase and sale for the Richard W. LeVan Airport in Wingham.
As part of the agreement, it will remain a viable airport for 15 consecutive years.
Papple Aviation, owned by Summer and Tyler Papple, purchased the 77 acres, including the runway, terminal building, hangars and the helipad, for an undisclosed amount of money.
The Wingham Advance Times made multiple requests to the township requesting more information on the sale price, but did not receive a response prior to press time.
Council also directed the director of finance to place the funds from the sale of the airport into reserve funds until council decides how these funds can be used for the benefit of all ratepayers.
Council also directed staff to begin the process of declaring the 371 acres of land and woodlot surrounding the airport, which is currently leased, as surplus to the township’s needs, to begin preparations for the eventual sale of that land.
Director of Public Works Jamie McCarthy presented her report on the sale and the surplus declaration to North Huron council at the Nov. 1 regular council meeting.
The following conditions of sale applied and were agreed upon by both parties:
• the purchaser agrees to operate the grounds as a viable airport for 15 consecutive years;
• the purchaser agrees to purchase or lease the hangers from the current lessees;
• the purchaser agrees to support the continuation of ORNGE services at the airport; and
• the purchaser agrees to provide unhindered access to the easement located at the west section of the property line.
Robert Warwick, who currently leases the 371 acres council wants to declare surplus, personally requested that council consider his situation carefully and told them that he would prefer to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Warwick said he was looking for clarity regarding his tenancy. He explained that he was a little confused, having heard conflicting information about what would happen.
“I’d like to keep renting the airport property for as long as I can,” Warwick said.
After some discussion about the wording of the motion and to help Warwick with some clarity, council revised the motion to include the date when notice will be given to him.
The declaration of surplus land and the early lease termination does not guarantee that the land will be sold. There is still a process that has to happen before any sale goes through.
According to the lease document provided by McCarthy in her report, the current five-year lease held between Warwick and the township was initially scheduled to end in 2024.
Since written notification to terminate the lease would have been given to the tenant on Aug. 1 to vacate the land by the end date of Dec. 31, council agreed that notice is given to the tenant on Aug. 1, 2022 to leave at the end of 2022.
McCarthy’s report said, “It would be staff’s intentions to provide the tenant with notice of termination sooner rather than later and in accordance with the agreement, specify the type of crop to be planted. A crop type with a shorter growth period enables a shorter transition period to a potential purchaser.”
Council authorized staff to proceed with the disposal of the surplus property using the direct advertising method and directed them to prepare a report for a future meeting detailing all offers and expressions of interest for future consideration.