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Council responds to concerns at airport

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Following a spirited town hall meeting that saw approximately 150 residents turn out, many of them sharing concerns about increased traffic and safety at the Oshawa Executive Airport, city council is making moves in an attempt to mitigate some of the issues.

In a motion brought forward by Councillor Dan Carter ahead of council’s first budget meeting on Dec. 11, city staff will be taking a series of steps to deal with the concerns raised by residents during the meeting, including reviewing communication plans and recommending that updated air quality, noise and traffic management studies be undertaken as part of the Airport Business Plan review.

“I thought that it was a spirited conversation, but I thought that it was a good conversation to have,” Carter said of the Dec. 5 town hall. “The big part of this was we can do better.”

The seven part motion includes a number of items, including a review of the communication plan for the Airport Community Liaison committee, as well as an updated air quality study, a review of the airport-related fees and charges, and a noise and traffic management plan review, all of which are to have the proper opportunities for public input.

Also among the recommendations are for the liaison committee to host an annual town hall meeting to provide a forum for discussion, and that city council reaffirm its decision that it does not support any extension of the Oshawa airport’s runway. Among the concerns raised by residents was the issue that with the runway rehab just wrapped up and the addition of the paved runway end safety areas (RESA), the airport was able to extend its runway without the proper approvals. However, airport manager Stephen Wilcox assured that the RESAs are only in place in case of emergencies and are not used in the general operation of the airport.

“The runway was not extended, we did it for safety,” said Councillor Doug Sanders, who noted that clearing up misconceptions should be a big part of the improved communications. “I think those are very important to have and we need to bring people together.”

Another issue raised during the meeting was the fact that planes appeared to be flying in much lower than allowed, with one resident noting that they appeared only inches above the 60-foot trees on his property.

Council’s motion proposes that Wilcox forward a letter to Transport Canada explaining that several neighbours of the airport have raised such concerns.

Wilcox has also been asked to host a bus tour of the airport in January, something that was requested during the town hall meeting.

“The feedback that we got back from the public was very much a communication issue,” said Councillor Gail Bates, the seconder of the motion and one of the councillors in attendance at the town hall, who was joined there by Carter, Mayor John Henry, and Councillor Rick Kerr.

Kerr noted the motion was a good summary of the issues raised.

“People wanted to be informed and I think we have some real ways forward,” he said.

The motion was carried unanimously by council, save for Councillor Amy McQuaid-England was absent from the meeting.