As the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport plans capital improvements to attract more businesses, its neighbours are organizing in opposition to a bigger airport, and more air traffic.
The two sides will meet at an open house tonight, Nov. 25, at the Sky Helicopters Hangar, to discuss the plans.
On the agenda is a plan to expand the main runway by almost 100m (300 ft.) to 1,524m (5,000 ft.) in total, add lights and other safety features.
Murray Day, president of the Pitt Meadows Airport Society, said the business plan is to attract new aviation business to YPK. As the Vancouver International Airport grows, some smaller businesses may be squeezed out, and the society would like Pitt Meadows to be a good option for them.
The runway enhancements would allow these businesses to attract a wider range of aircraft, which might come to the airport for painting, maintenance or other services, he said.
Smaller jets are already able to land at the airport now, and do. The runway expansion would make it safer for them, particularly on takeoffs, and give them space to turn around at the end of the runway.
The lighting at the airport is old, and the society would like to replace it with modern LEDs, which are cost effective and provide more light.
“As new business develops at the airport, that’s going to help the Pitt Meadows tax base,” he said.
Day said the airport society hopes to be able to access federal grants, but has a $14 million endowment fund from land sales. So the cost of these upgrades, estimated at $2.2 to $2.5 million, could be covered.
The cities of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are partners in the operation of the airport, but will not be asked to contribute financially, said Day.
Glenn Mitchell planned to attend the open house and said he knows 70 other people who oppose the runway expansion.
The traffic of Cessna-style planes that come and go is what residents have gotten used to. But larger jet-powered aircraft could bring more noise and pollution, as well and create anxiety about safety for the neighbours who live underneath the flight paths.
“It’s a real concern for us as citizens,” Mitchell said.
The jets are noticeably louder, and Mitchell added that when Medivac jets use the airport, residents notice.
“They make an awful racket.”
There is a Facebook page for residents who oppose the Pitt Meadows airport expansion, bearing the slogan: “Say yes to our community by saying no to the runway expansion.”
Mitchell wants the airport to remain as it is and wants Mayor John Becker be more of an advocate for residents.
“I’m hoping that we can, as a group, persuade the airport society to listen to what the public has to say,” said Mitchell.
Bob Meachen, a resident, said the runway expansion will allow one of the busiest airports in the province to accommodate larger and more powerful aircraft.
“Do we really want to see an increase in air traffic, right above our homes?”
• The open house will be held from 5-7:30 p.m.