Richmond City Council opposes proposed airport zoning changes
07 September 2017
Richmond City Council is asking Transport Canada to reject an application from the Vancouver Airport Authority for significant changes to the federal Airport Zoning Regulations (AZR) within Richmond. The Airport Authority is asking for the changes in support of their long-term plans for a proposed third runway at the Vancouver International Airport. The proposed changes would have negative impacts on building heights of future development in Richmond and pose long-term noise concerns within Richmond.
“The Airport Authority has unilaterally proceeded with its application to Transport Canada without directly consulting the residents and property owners who will be profoundly impacted by these changes,” said Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie. “There is no valid reason for pushing these changes through without due proper process, particularly given that the proposed runway is not anticipated to be built for decades.”
Transport Canada sets Airport Zoning Regulations for areas under airport runway flight paths, which supersede local zoning regulations.
Of significant concern is the Airport Authority’s decision to proceed with its application to Transport Canada without prior direct public consultation with the impacted residents and property owners. The City is also concerned that the proposed changes do not limit use of the proposed new runway to landings only and that the application seeks reductions of building heights within parts of the Richmond City Centre, which are contrary to existing local and regional plans.
In order to mitigate potential noise and safety impacts, the City has requested that the proposed Close-In South Parallel Runway be used for landings only, except under limited circumstances and with demonstrated operational needs. The Airport Authority has rejected the City’s request, leaving open the possibility the runway could be used for takeoffs on a regular basis closer to residential areas south of the existing runway.
Without full analysis of the noise and safety impacts of using the new runway for takeoffs, the impacts on the community and quality of life are unknown and thus unacceptable to the City. The possible use of the third runway for takeoffs is also inconsistent with commitments made by the Airport Authority in its own previous master plan and in correspondence with the City.
The City is also seeking adjustments to the Airport Authority’s proposed new building height limits beneath the flight path of the new runway. The Airport Authority’s proposed new building height limits would disrupt well established land use plans adopted by local and regional authorities. They would create considerable deviations from the planned land use density patterns and building forms which are currently permitted under the existing Zoning Bylaw and envisioned in the Richmond Official Community Plan. It would impact many proposed developments within Richmond City Centre that are already well advanced in the planning and development stage and negatively impact property owners who’ve made significant investments based on existing policies.
The City has had extensive discussions with Vancouver Airport Authority about the proposed new regulations. The City made its best efforts to reach an agreement with the Airport Authority that protects the needs and interests of the community, and minimizes the negative impacts on development, while also supporting the continued evolution of the airport. However, the Airport Authority has rejected the City’s proposed amendments and has advised the City that it is proceeding unilaterally to seek approval from Transport Canada for its plans.
In addition to expressing its opposition to the Airport Authority and the Transport Canada, the City will also be raising its concerns with the Federal Minister of Transport.
In the meantime, the City will continue to process development applications as per existing zoning and community plans.
More information on the issue and the City’s concerns can be found at: www.richmond.ca/airportzoning.