North Huron Council takes steps to sell LeVan Airport
BY DENNY SCOTT
Despite some concerns that North Huron Council was putting the cart before the horse, council members has voted to proceed with a plan to sell the Richard W. LeVan Airport plus 15 additional acres of land.
During Monday night’s meeting, members discussed a proposed motion that would see the 77-acre airport property, alongside an additional 15 acres, declared surplus to the municipality’s needs. The declaration would allow North Huron to proceed with selling the lot. The additional farmland around the airport, which spans nearly 400 acres and is also owned by North Huron, wasn’t part of the discussion, however council members remarked if someone wanted to buy all of it, the township would entertain offers.
Some councillors, however, felt council should wait until a severance was approved for the 92 total acres of land before pursuing selling the property. Councillor Anita van Hittersum was the lone vote against the move, simply saying council needed to make sure the severance was approved first.
The motion called for staff to negotiate terms and conditions of potential offers and to utilize the assistance of a professional agency to get the best sale price for council. That information was set to be brought back to council at a future council meeting.
While van Hittersum voted against the move, Councillor Chris Palmer shared her concerns, though he didn’t vote the same way.
He questioned whether the municipality would need permission from Morris-Turnberry before moving ahead with the severance to allow the purchase.
Reeve Bernie Bailey felt it wasn't necessary, saying that North Huron is just another property owner that pays taxes to Morris-Turnberry for the land. He said he had hoped to “swap the land” or adjust the border so the farmland and the airport would be added to North Huron, but said Morris-Turnberry wasn't in favour of the move. The change, he said, would have been accepted in lieu of costs for the water and sewer infrastructure that North Huron uses to provide services to Morris-Turnberry ratepayers.
Bailey also stated the move was a necessary one as Morris-Turnberry Council had declined to provide air space protection around the airport, meaning that neighbouring property owners could erect silos directly in the approach vectors for aircraft using the site.
“No one in North Huron uses the airport,” Bailey said. “There is a whole field of reasons we should be unloading it.”
Director of Public Works and Facilities Jamie McCarthy somewhat backed up those claims, saying there were a total of four uses of the airport, outside of Apex Helicopters, which operates a business at the site.
While most of council was ready to sell the property, Deputy-Reeve Trevor Seip was against a recommended $6,000 study prior to the sale of the property. He said the property has been the focus of enough studies over the years that the township should just be able to hand those reports to a potential buyer and encourage them to look through them.
Palmer, however, wasn’t convinced, saying he “wasn’t satisfied yet” with the information presented.
“Technically, anyone can wish to sever anything they want,” he said, speaking about the severance process property owners use to divide lands into separate properties. “You still need permission from [the host] township. I’m trying to protect us and alert us to the fact we have this issue.”
Despite his concerns, Palmer did vote in favour of the motion.
According to the recommended motion, staff will also prepare a report for council’s consideration regarding the future of the farmland the municipality owns around the airport.
During council’s Monday night meeting, council also approved a motion to have a woodlot management plan for a portion of the airport property created and implemented by G.W.G. Resource Services. The funds from the woodlot harvest are to be added to the airport reserves, according to council’s motion.