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21st Street bridge crossing abandoned, city staff examining Airpark lease options

COURTENAY, B.C- The fate of the Courtenay Airpark could soon be set for the foreseeable future.

On Monday evening, a motion from Mayor Larry Jangula asked for the potential location of a river crossing at 21st Street be abandoned.

The second part of the motion asked city staff to prepare long term leases for the Courtenay Airpark Association and tenants at the site for the next 20 to 40 years, pending council approval.

Two weeks ago, Jangula had indicated that the city is working towards “operational efficiencies” at the airpark, due to multiple leases at the site expiring at different times.

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That information had come after users of the airpark had protested to council about of month-to-month leases being brought in, coming in droves to City Hall to present their concerns to council.

Jangula’s motion was broken down into two separate discussions during Monday evening’s meeting, with the initial move to abandon the river crossing at 21st Street being discussed first.

After the mayor moved to a council seat to bring forward the motion, he received a burst of applause from airpark users after stating the bridge crossing would have been in the wrong place, and caused a lot of “consternation”.

That sentiment was echoed around the council chamber, with multiple councillors weighing in. Councillor Bob Wells said the question of the park’s fate had put people through “angst and stress”, and he wanted to apologize for that.

Councillor Doug Hillian re-iterated his opposition to a bridge crossing at 21st Street, pointing out that no discussion on that particular crossing had come up among council.

Councillor Manno Theos, who was on the phone from Greece, said he was surprised that a crossing was even being talked about, and he was happy to see it straightened out.

Councillor Rebecca Lennox, who was also phoning in to the meeting, expressed reluctance to vote on the bridge abandonment before an ongoing transportation master plan study was completed. However, she didn’t believe a bridge over the Courtenay River estuary would be worth the environmental costs.

Councillor David Frisch voted in favour of the idea, though he believed residents of the city still believed a third crossing would be a solution. He also said more ways of moving people around needed to be examined, beyond bridges and private vehicles.

The abandonment eventually passed, without an opposing vote.

However, the question of 20 to 40 year leases did not pass the council chamber. Councillor Doug Hillian expressed opposition to voting on the motion without a report from municipal staff, outlining the options council had on the matter.

Council eventually agreed to have staff prepare that report.

After the meeting, Jangula said he expected the report to come back to council within the next two weeks, after municipal staff meet with users of the airpark.

As for his move to suggest 20 to 40 year leases after first suggesting a five-year option, Jangula indicated he had changed his mind.

“Nobody knew that what was going on was going to create that kind of a firestorm,” said Jangula.

“I think that based on what we heard at the public hearing, what I’ve heard from people since then, and research that I’ve done, I felt that we needed to move forward and give these people some security.”

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