EDITORIAL: Can an airport lawsuit be avoided?

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Looking at the big picture of the Waterville municipal airport closure like a jigsaw puzzle, there is a piece missing. It also looks as though Supreme Court legal action over the airport closure will go ahead.

A counter proposal presented to the municipality’s lawyers by the applicants, who are a group of hangar owners and the Waterville Airport Co-operative Limited, also has the support of the Annapolis Valley Flying Association. If the municipality accepted by Aug. 22, the legal action would be withdrawn.

There was, however, no word from the applicants as of mid afternoon on Aug. 22 whether or not they’d heard back from the municipality about whether the proposal was accepted or rejected. The municipality has offered no comment on the situation. Waterville Airport Co-operative chairman Gordon Squires described the counter proposal as a “constructive and reasonable direct reply” to the municipality’s strategy passed by council on July 29.

The municipality’s strategy includes the relocation of the airport to 14 Wing Greenwood. Ongoing negotiations into the future of the relocated airport would be conducted between 14 Wing and the aviation community. The intention is for the relocated airport to be owned and managed by an arm’s-length organization operating as a business.

In order for these negotiations to take place, the closure date of the Waterville airport would have to be extended from Sept. 30 of this year to March 31, 2015, providing that aviation users confirm their agreement, in writing, prior to Aug. 31.

Hangar owners representative Tom Goddard said if the airport co-op signs on and agrees, this would essentially void the current management agreement and “we would have no lawsuit.”

Goddard said the legal challenge has always been about the management agreement between the county and airport co-op. If the municipality agrees to honour the terms and postpone the closure date of the airport to Sept. 30, 2015, the legal action will be withdrawn. For the aviation community, this is a matter of principle: it is about holding the municipality to its contract.

The municipality wants to make the current airport land available for a potential expansion of the neighbouring Michelin tire plant and the aviation community isn’t against a Michelin expansion, however, unless the municipality is aware of something regarding the company’s plans that the general public is not, the aviation community doesn’t understand why there is such a rush to vacate the land.

We appreciate that Michelin is a private company and the general public doesn’t necessarily have a right to know what its plans are. However, Michelin has yet to identify publicly a need to access the land as soon as possible.

For the sake of transparency and accountability, we think Kings County taxpayers deserve a thorough explanation. Is it as simple as wanting to demonstrate to Michelin how eager the municipality is to have the company expand here?

Regardless of the funding source, most likely to be taken from the proceeds of the eventual land sale, tax dollars will be spent battling the aviation community in court. To what end? If Michelin doesn’t have a pressing need for the land, why can’t the closure date be extended to avoid a costly battle in the courts? Are we missing something here? Our ears are open.


Organizations: Waterville Airport Co, Supreme Court, Annapolis Valley Flying Association Airport co-op

Geographic location: Waterville, Kings

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