truck parked at the dirst access road onto a property

Neighbourhood Concerns about the ‘Cortes Airport’

Editor’s note: On Feb 1, roughly two weeks after Cortes Currents left the first message on her answering machine, Judy Kemchand posted the following update on the Tideline: “Our scope of work includes increasing the safety of the runway by grading the existing gravel surface and chipsealing the airstrip. This runway is currently used by smaller aircraft only as it is not long enough to accommodate jets or larger planes and there are no plans to lengthen or widen this surface so it will continue to only accommodate those types of aircraft that have landed here before. Jets will still not be able to land on Cortes. Additionally, all pilots will still be required to gain permission from the land owner to land on this private runway. We are also contracted to build a small wooden 56′ x 64′ storage hangar at the north end of the runway, which will be used to house a small plane or helicopter if desired. There will not be any aircraft fuel storage onsite as has been speculated.”

In June 1999, James and Diane Hansen built an air strip in the southern tip of Cortes Island. According to the deposition that John Woolley later made to the Supreme Court of British Columbia, “the majority of the neighbouring property owners, including himself, have strongly objected to the development and operation of the airstrip.” They were concerned about ‘excessive noise,’ potential accidents, ‘environmental hazards resulting from the storage of fuel and the impact of the operation of the airstrip on water quality and bird habitats.’ The most serious opposition came from the Comox-Strathcona Regional District, which stated the airstrip contravened its zoning laws. However Transport Canada approved the strip and after a long legal battle, in 2005 the courts decided that the Hansens ‘shall be entitled to maintain and operate their airport.’ 

That was 18 years ago, but a number of Cortes residents are concerned about the work currently underway on the airstrip. 

Entry for the Cortes Island airstrip in the Feb 2018 CANDA FLIGHT SUPPLEMENT (Nav Canada)

There are rumours that Vancouver real estate developer Mo Yeung (Michael) Ching, who acquired the property in 2013, intends to pave the airstrip so that it can service jets and/or helicopters.  

A Facebook post claims that ’emissions free electric jets’ are coming to Cortes Island. “They won’t need to pave the airstrip but they will put in a landing pad and an airplane hanger.” 

Neither of these stories has been confirmed. 

Cortes Currents attempted to reach Judy Kemchand, who allegedly manages the property, but she has not returned any phone calls. 

 The ‘Cortes Airport’ (CC19) is lot #1 of Strata 1269. There are 21 other  properties. 

When John Woolley and  David Geoffrey Nikleva deposed against the Hansen’s airport in 2003, they were acting on behalf of Strata 1269. 

On January 19, Carl Simpson, the current Chair of Strata 1269, told Cortes Currents that he is aware of the rumours that work is being done on the airport but could not confirm or deny them. He stated the Board had granted Lot #1 permission to build a new access road, adding they had no reason to deny the request.

Some of the pilots who used the ‘Cortes Airport’ left posts on the OurAirports website. One entry, dating back to the Hansen era, states:

“I recently completed a water improvement contract for BC Parks at Smelt Bay adjacent to Hansen airfield, bought gravel from Jim and Diane, got to know them a bit, very nice folks, real salt-of-the-earth people. Watch out, 4 hours will pass and you’ll still be drinking coffee, hearing great stories from Jim and Diane. The guy has a nice new little Hitachi excavator and an old Cat dozer, that airstrip is getting better and better. Have fun flying here….”

When Michael Ching attempted to subdivide his 160 acre lot in 2015, it consisted of an airstrip, a gravel pit, a small lavender farm  and a small residence.

 An article in the Campbell River Mirror states, “Judy Khemchand, manager of Acre Lavender Farms, said Ching has planted 9,000 plus lavender trees, put in 30 fruit trees, a well, an automated irrigation system, has a lavender processing building under construction, and employs up to 14 workers during peak season. He wants to expand the operation, which could mean five to eight more jobs, but Khemchand said Ching needs the subdivision of the parcel property.”  

Khemchand made a presentation to the SRD Board regarding the subdivision

Carl Simpson informed the SRD that Strata 1269 was concerned about  the use of a strata lot for exclusively non-residential purposes.

“On March 10th (2015), the Strata Corporation presented the owner of Lot #1 a list of questions to which it seeks answers, so that the owner-members have a clear understanding of the impacts of the proposed subdivision. To date, the owner of Lot # 1 has not responded to our enquiry,” he wrote.

That was 8 years ago, Mr Ching has not informed his neighbours about his current plans for Lot #1 either.

Top image credit: Truck parked in front of the new access road – Photo by Mike Manson

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