Airport dream not taking off 

Council again defeats funding request to investigate airport feasibility study in close vote

It was a case of déjà vu on Monday night as council once again quashed plans to investigate the possibility of a Whistler airport for the second time in three months.

This time instead of municipal staff asking council to authorize $20,000 for an airport feasibility study the request came from Councillor Nick Davies on behalf of the Whistler 2020 economic task force.

That task force is made up of a number of community stakeholders who have identified an airport as the number one priority for the resort’s economy.

Davies was attempting to fast track that priority at their request.

"We need to do something about the state of the economy if we can," said Davies, in his pitch to get council to endorse spending the money.

He asked council to approve $20,000 to investigate the feasibility of an airport in the Brandywine area on the resort’s southern boundary.

But, just as they did three months ago when staff came forward with the same request, council shot down the appeal for funds.

Only Mayor Hugh O’Reilly and Councillor Gordon McKeever stood behind Davies.

"This seems to be a knee-jerk reaction," said Councillor Ken Melamed.

He suggested a tongue in cheek amendment to Davies’ request that council approve $20,000 for the top priorities in each of the 16 Whistler 2020 task forces. Those include the resident housing task force, the resident affordability task force and the transportation task force.

There are more than 150 recommendations coming from all the task forces that have to be budgeted for added Melamed.

The $20,000 feasibility study would have determined if a Whistler airport is even technically viable. The Brandywine site can only work if the airport had RNP (required navigational procedure) technology. It is not clear whether that technology would work in Brandywine – an outstanding question the study would have answered once and for all.

Instead of $20,000 Melamed suggested they approve a $2,000 community survey which would determine how many people in the community even want an airport.

"People are not going to want to live in the path of 737’s," he said.

That’s a question the Pemberton community still needs to ask itself too.

The Village of Pemberton is moving along with plans for their airport. It still remains to be seen if the airport will stay a local airport or become a regional facility.

After a meeting this week, Pemberton council is now working to collect weather data and grant money too.

They are hoping to have a strategic plan finished by early September.

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