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Middle ground in dispute about trees at end of Comox airport runway?
According to Comox Valley Airport CEO Fred Bigelow, there could be a "middle ground" regarding the issue of tall trees poking into the airspace at the airport.
Bigelow made the announcement during the Comox Valley Airport's annual public meeting Wednesday, though he said he almost didn't because the idea is just starting to be researched and could "completely go nowhere."
Trees on three properties around the airport infringe on airport zoning regulations, and the property owners object to cutting them as they are nesting zones for herons. As a result, height limits on aircraft approaches were raised for commercial flights, and higher limits meant more flight cancellations and delays due to foul weather over the past winter.
Bigelow says he met with one of the landowners recently, and is looking into whether there is a middle ground solution because airport zoning regulations and the requirements to protect airspace for approaches are not always the same.
"In some cases there's a significant difference," he said Wednesday. "And this is something we just started working on very recently, in fact, just last week."
Bigelow noted the logistics are very complex and the airport is working with CFB Comox to determine whether a compromise is a possibility.
"It's entirely possible that some of the trees which would be 'in violation of the airport zoning regulations'…that are a technical violation of the zoning regulations, might still be permissible and meet the needs of the airport operator and the aeronautical requirements because of the difference between the zoning regulations," he explained, noting some could be left in tact and others could be cut a bit shorter.
However, he also stressed the investigation is in the early stages and it's also very possible the idea won't work out.
Meanwhile, he noted work to bury power lines around the airspace, ridding the area of power poles infringing on the airspace, is expected to be complete by the end of October.
He also noted the airport is still waiting to hear the Minister of National Defence's decision about the landowner objections, but he could offer no timeframe on how long the legal process could take.
"Obviously, we're anxious to see this come to resolution," he said. "But, one of the good parts of living in Canada is that governments have to follow legal processes; sometimes one of the bad parts of living in Canada is governments have to follow legal processes, and so this is just the way it is."
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Richard Clarke is the newest member of the Comox Valley Airport Commission (CVAC) board of directors.
As a consultant specializing in public sector productivity and improvement, Clarke brings more than 37 years of public sector experience.
Clarke serves on the boards of several national organizations including the Rotary Foundation of Canada, the Institute of Citizen Centred Services and the Canadian Landmine Foundation. He is the president of the Comox Valley’s Dawn to Dawn homeless society.
Clarke fills the local governments' nominee vacancy, a position formerly held by Daryl McLouglin. His appointment was endorsed earlier this month and he attended his first board meeting Sept. 18.