Council’s Q & A on the City Centre Airport

I know I’ve been writing a lot about ECCA lately, but with the Council meeting taking place tomorrow afternoon, it’s crunch time. I think the most likely outcome is that Council will vote for a staged closure of the airport (shutting one runway down initially, with the rest to follow at a later date). The only other outcome that I think has a chance is that Council will somehow delay the process, likely by asking for additional information.

During the public hearings last week, Council asked a number of questions (75 to be exact). This afternoon, the answers were published online (you can download the Word doc here). It’s worth reading the entire thing (50 pages, which includes the ECCA 2007 Annual Report) but I thought I’d highlight a few here.

On height restrictions:

Examples of major past projects that were reduced in height or could have developed higher were it not for the Airport Protection Overlay (APO) height limitations include the EPCOR Tower (101 Street/105 Avenue), the AMA Building (109 Street/118 Avenue, the Royal Alexandra Hospital Expansion, two residential towers in Railtown, and Aurora Developments (105 Avenue/101 Street).

On medivac (there’s not as much in the answers as you might think):

Many stakeholders noted that the medevac system needs improvement, whether or not there are changes to ECCA. They also noted with all ambulances (ground, fixed wing and rotary wing) potentially being managed by Alberta Health Services, an opportunity exists for improvement of patient care.

On a third party managing the airport:

The Board of Directors of Edmonton Airports approved a resolution on June 20, 2009 that “For as long as the Edmonton City Centre Airport lands are used as an airport, Edmonton Airport is committed to manage the Edmonton City Centre Airport as an airport in accordance with the lease to the expiry of the lease term.” Therefore, the option of having the ECCA separately managed is not available for consideration.

On competition for development throughout the City:

Armin Preiksitis & Associates estimates that the current major development sites underway or expected in the City will contribute almost 35,000 multi-family units. If no other developments come on-line, those units will be completely absorbed in 2019, and there will be 2,453 multi family units needed each year thereafter. That is the equivalent of over 8 30-story condo towers and 650 townhouses per year. As part of the City’s multi family dwelling supply, the ECCA lands would reduce the rate of absorption at competing properties and lengthening the development timing.

On the timeline for closure:

It needs to be recognized that potential redevelopment of the ECCA lands is a mid-term to long-term proposition. If you refer to the report (Report 2009DCM032, Attachment 2, pages 10 of 299 and) it is assumed that the earliest redevelopment on the ECCA lands would begin in 2016 – seven years from now. Colliers International, based upon market conditions and competing developments, estimates a 23-28 year build out period.

On the creation of economic activity:

To say that Airports Create Jobs, leaves you with the wrong impression, that if you develop an airport, you will create economic activity. This is only true to the extent that the demand for these services already exists. If you took the statement that aviation creates jobs at face value, you would consider building another airport in Edmonton as a measure for generating economic growth. This of course is not something anyone would actively promote.

On how much the City will have to pay to maintain ECCA:

Like most general aviation airports, the City Centre Airport cannot fully pay for its capital costs. Those costs are subsidized by the users of EIA. Also, the ten year capital requirements of the airport approximate $35M and one of the more significant items is storm water improvements. It is expected that the city’s contribution towards the completion of that component is up to $10M.

One of my favorite sections rips apart the Ascend report put forward by AEG (question 31). Definitely worth a look.

I’ll be tweeting live from the City Council meeting tomorrow afternoon (July 8th) at 1pm. You can follow along with the #ecca hashtag. I hope they make the right decision.