Smithers council moves to rezone airport, park

With the future economic viability of the Smithers Airport in mind, council approved rezoning of the airport grounds.

Looking forward to the future economic viability of the Smithers Airport, council approved rezoning of the airport grounds to allow better use of the property to accommodate increased air traffic as well as possible businesses and organizations surrounding the airport.

After completion of the Airport Business and Land Use Plan, recommendations to rezone the airport from an A-1 designation came forward in an attempt to create a more strategic, long-term plan for one of Smithers’ more important assets.

“We’re trying to facilitate economic development at the airport,” said town planner, Allison Walker. “The airport is a really key part of our strategy as a community in the north, it’s a very important asset.

“So this zoning will allow us to make land available for businesses that are related to the airport.”

The previous A-1 zoning didn’t allow for much, as it was designated as agricultural land use.

However, with the new AP-1 designations future development will allow for airside industrial and commercial use closer to the runway, with the AP-2 designation allowing for airport related light industry.

“The development of the airport will also be dictated by the demand,” Walker said.

“It might take a couple of years, it might take ten or twenty years in terms of the pace of growth. “ What the uptake is remains to be seen.”

Mayor Taylor Bachrach emphasized the economic importance of the airport, saying as development increases in the north, Smithers needs to be ready with a strategy to accommodate the possible influx of businesses needing airport support.

“As resource development occurs, there will be an increased interest in our airport and we need to be ready,” he said.

“This is one of the things we’re doing to be prepared.”

Smithers Council also rezoned an area of land behind the Silverking Subdivision to Dohler Road. The 36 hectare area was brought to council’s attention last year by Bob Mitchell who suggested because of it’s thick vegetation and steep terrain it would be a perfect area for an expansion of the perimeter trail.

Whether or not that will happen remains to be seen, however, it is clear the town supports the development of the land into a park after voting unanimously to amend the A-1 designation to allow parks and green space.

“I’m hoping it will be cleared to put money into it, because before we had no guarantees anything built there would be continued and have any long-term benefit,” Mitchell said.

“Now we have security and we can attract funds from other people and organizations and maybe the town will put some money towards it and we can improve the whole perimeter trail system.”

Although it took a year for council to approve the amendment to the zoning, Councillor Phil Brienesse was happy to finally see forward movement on the future development of the area.

“It took a bit of time to work through it but it’s one of those success stories that a member of the public brought forward to council and the town came through with a creative way by rezoning the A-1 zone to allow for trails and parks so it’s a great creative solution to allow that use in that area.”