Future of the Comox Valley Airport up to its Citizens
People in the Comox Valley will get to vote on whether or not to fund a new airport passenger terminal on February 15, 2003.
A referendum asking the public to approve a $4 million grant to the Comox Valley Airport Commission was supposed to occur with the civic elections on Nov. 16. However, a difference of legal opinions quashed the question at the last minute.
The Comox Valley Airport Commission has been operating the municipal airport out of a cramped building for several years. Two years ago the airport hit its maximum allowable expansion (the airport leases space from Canadian Forces Base Comox) with a temporary passenger holding area and security area, as well as a new check-in place for WestJet and a baggage carousel.
Andrea Martin and Ryan Williams, engaged to be married. are both downhill ski coaches with the Mount Washington Ski Club.
Twice a day, the airport experiences "zoo time" when both WestJet and Pacific Coastal flights are arriving and departing, packing people into the terminal like sardines.
Tom Dishlevoy Architecture of Comox has designed a new, bigger passenger terminal for Comox, which will solve the congestion. The terminal will be located a few hundred metres away from its present location on Department of National Defence property, which will allow for a bigger ramp area.
The only thing standing between the Comox Valley Airport Commission and its new terminal is money.
The Regional District of Comox-Strathcona will be asking Valley residents to create an airport service area - comprising the entire Comox Valley - and borrow $4.1 million to donate to the airport terminal project. The loan would then be paid back over 20 years through raised taxes.
" We resolved the issue and we're now proceeding to another referendum with the wording of the bylaw and the referendum as such that we won't be in a legal hassle as we were the last time," regional district director Jack Turner said.
The new airport service area would be made up of Areas A,B, C and K as well as the municipalities of Comox, Cumberland and Courtenay. The maximum amount that a property owner would have to pay annually, based on their property value, is 10 cents per $1,000.
The proposed new terminal will cost $7.9 million to build, downgraded from the original $10 million plan, but functional nonetheless. And the new terminal will be built none too soon, says airport General Manager Chuck Fast.
Fast hopes holding the referendum in February - and getting a positive vote - will allow CVAC to keep up with their building timelines. The Comox airport is the only such facility in B.C. that's growing, according to a B.C. tourism Web site.
" We're seeing 16 per cent growth," which is quite positive when compared to Campbell River, which is 19 per cent off their previous year's numbers, Fast said.
Comox anticipated a cooling off period with their passenger numbers after Air Canada pulled out last June, but that never happened. "The demand is big," he said. The airport is still on target for 150,000 passengers in 2002, making it the second busiest behind Victoria. "We sure need that facility to be open by next Christmas.