Couple urges county to update aerodrome bylaw

Gerard and Donna Fetaz, residents within the County of Paintearth, visited council chambers on Tues. Dec. 11 to discuss changes to the Airport Fringe District Land Use Bylaw.

The couple owns an airstrip, also known as an aerodrome, on their own property for mostly private use prompting concerns surrounding the introduction of a second wind energy project near Halkirk.

As it stands, the bylaw shows many of their rules are centred around the actual aerodrome. An aerodrome is any area of land, water including frozen surfaces, or other supporting surfaces that is designed and equipped to use in the movement or servicing of aircraft.

This includes make-shift landing strips and buildings.

After some digging into documents, the Fetaz’s discovered the consistent position from the Supreme Court which has ruled the federal government has ‘exclusive jurisdiction over aeronautics’ which includes aerodromes.

The County’s jurisdiction, on the other hand, is the area surrounding the aerodrome.

The County’s bylaw states “The purpose of the Aerodrome Fringe District is to protect the safety and viability of aerodromes, residents and air traffic while permitting a variety of uses which do not impact or interfere with aerodrome operations.”

It also outlines a number of specific regulations for certain projects like fencing, private driveways and agricultural structures where a development permit is not required.

Transport Canada has been approached by the public and aviation stakeholders over safety concerns of ‘non-traditional’ land usage such as wind farms.

They, in turn, have created a new version of TP1247E that addresses these worries.

This document is meant to help planners and legislators of all levels of government become familiar with issues surrounding aerodromes as well as compatible land uses, easements and land zoning.

It covers all certified and non-certified aerodromes, heliports and water aerodromes.

“It is the responsibility of the County to protect the ratepayers from any legal actions that may result from a bylaw that does not protect the public and the ratepayers in the County,” said Gerard.

“We believe the County is not fulfilling its obligation to protect the safety and viability of aerodromes, residents and air traffic as stated in the current bylaw,” he continued.

Currently, Paintearth County has two airports; Castor and Coronation.

In the Fetaz’s situation, the grass airstrip has been popular with their area.

This piece has also been in use for over 20 years, seven years prior to any County of Paintearth Land Use Bylaw regarding aerodromes, thus no development permit or certification was required at the time.

“In our opinion, it’s in the County’s best interest from the point of view regarding “liability” to adopt the recommendations of Transport Canada’s document TP 1247E.

“Who better to advise on matters regarding public and air traffic safety?  There would be no question of who is responsible if there were ever an incident involving any of the aerodromes in the County,” said the Fetaz’s during their presentation to Council.

They suggested a few changes to the current bylaw like the addition of aerodromes being protected under Federal Jurisdiction and the authority for the designation and control of lands within the vicinity of an aerodrome be with provincial and municipal levels of government.

Adding aerodrome to the list of definitions was also asked for.

Another suggestion asked of council was to consider having both airports and small aerodromes such as the Fetaz’s be recognized as equally protected under exclusive federal jurisdiction.

A final request was to add in recommendations from the TP 1247E document where obstructions 45 metres or taller should not be within 4000 metres of all non-certified aerodromes.

“But seriously, we are here to work with you and,” began Donna. “We really want to make this right and safe,” Gerard added.

“For everybody. It isn’t just about one aerodrome, it’s about all the aerodromes that you have the blessing of,” concluded Donna.

The two plan on attending the next council meeting on Jan. 15, 2019, hoping to hear a decision regarding their suggestions.

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