A rendering from 2019 Nanaimo Airport development design guidelines. (Urban Systems/Nanaimo Airport Commission image)

Nanaimo Airport, regional district at odds over land-use jurisdiction

New Nanaimo Airport CEO to reach out to RDN

The Regional District of Nanaimo and the Nanaimo Airport Commission are currently at odds over which has jurisdiction over YCD lands south of Nanaimo.

At its April 28 meeting, the RDN board gave two readings to amendments for the Cassidy-Cedar area official community plan and a land use and subdivision bylaw. It also voted to initiate a regional growth strategy amendment to include airport lands near the Trans-Canada Highway in a growth containment boundary, with the intention, according to a staff report, to “facilitate development of the airport, as well as commercial uses complementary to the Nanaimo Airport” on a section of the property near the highway. A public hearing would be needed before the bylaws pass.

Dave Devana, new Nanaimo Airport president and CEO, said he is aware of the recommendations and has concerns.

“Aeronautics are a matter of federal jurisdiction and it’s not to be impaired by the provincial or local government and so that’s the basic premise of the whole thing,” said Devana. “We’re just concerned and so I’m going to be consulting with the board and we’re going to respond … I would like to talk to the RDN and see where they’re going with this and why they’re pursuing it and to see if we can work together on it.”

Ian Thorpe, RDN board chairperson, said the regional district viewpoint is contrary from that of the commission.

“They have some legal opinion that backs [their view] up,” said Thorpe. “On the other hand, the regional district points out that the land is [within] the regional district and therefore, we have a duty and a responsibility to oversee how that land is used, so the [RDN] is stating and claiming that under our official community plan, we have the right to guide development on that land and get public opinion and so on.”

In terms of why the RDN is proceeding with preliminary readings of legislation, despite the commission’s objections, Thorpe said it is part of the regional district’s “ongoing updating of the official community plan” for the area. The RDN feels it is its duty to pursue that, he said.

“The funny thing is, I don’t think we disagree on how the land might eventually be used,” said Thorpe. “The regional district wants to see allowances for some commercial and businesses and so on and I believe that’s the aim of the airport as well. They want to see, maybe a hotel and a gas bar and a fast food outlet along the highway where the trailer sales are now. So it’s not a case of disagreeing on really how the land is used, it’s a more underlying disagreement on who has the say.”

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According to the staff report, public consultation last November and December found that residents felt commercial development of the airport lands makes sense in the context of the area, but expressed concerns about road safety on the highway near the airport.

In terms of next steps for the RDN, Kim Fowler, RDN manager of long-range planning and sustainability, said input will be sought from affected agencies.

“That would include the airport, it would include some First Nations, like the Stz’uminus … other local governments, those sorts of things,” said Fowler. “There’s a reasonable period of time we wait for responses back and then take that back to the board to consider going to a public hearing.”

Increased development at Nanaimo Airport would be beneficial, said Kim Smythe, Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.

“I’d like to see a combination of things that create some traffic, some foot traffic, pedestrian traffic and then some of the more sort of light industrial warehousing kind of uses, with a mix of commercial and air,” said Smythe. “I really like the idea of the hotel and restaurant. I think that we’re growing up and getting to the place where our ‘little airport,’ the second busiest airport on Vancouver Island, will need a hotel there.”



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A rendering from 2019 Nanaimo Airport development design guidelines. (Urban Systems/Nanaimo Airport Commission image)

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