November 15, 2023

NOTL asked to contribute $96,000 to the Niagara District Airport

Jon Robinson

Niagara District Airport in Niagara-on-the-Lake. (Photo: Mike Balsom, File Photo, Niagara-on-the-Lake Local)

— By Kris Dube, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara-on-the-Lake Local

The Niagara District Airport Commission is hoping for a smooth landing of funds from the local government.

On Tuesday, chief executive officer Daniel Pilon gave one of six presentations to local officials sitting on the town’s budget review committee, asking for a piece of the 2024 budget.

The airport commission is coming to the town for more than $96,000 for both capital and operating needs, but this is a small fraction of what is being asked of two other nearby municipalities which also provide funding for the airport.

Niagara Falls has been asked for almost $479,000 and St. Catharines’ budget request is almost $694,000.

The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake owns the land the airport sits on, but all three municipalities own the approximately $20 million in assets that keep the airport in flight, said Pilon.

The federal government provided $1.4 million to the commission in 2023, a year where 36,000 “movements” took place, aircraft either landing or taking off at the site.

Emergency services also use the site frequently, he added.

The airport’s operating budget in 2024 is expected to be $963,000, with $444,000 of that generated by revenues.

Costs include planning engagements with other projects taking place nearby that require the commission’s attention, such as the twinning of the Garden City Skyway. Maintenance, IT upgrades, and safety procedures such as de-icing and the prevention of potential obstacles would also be covered by this funding.

Capital pressures are pegged to be at about $750,000 in 2024, which also requires an order being placed for a new plow truck to replace one previously gifted by the City of Niagara Falls in 2018 that will need to be taken out of service soon, said Pilon.

Asked by Coun. Sandra O’Connor about the type of clientele the airport sees, Pilon said many arrive to attend weddings in town, including a number of hockey players who attended one this summer. Pilon did not mention names, but Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner got married in Niagara-on-the-Lake earlier this year.

Entertainers who perform at the Niagara Falls casinos and other venues have been known to use the airport, said Pilon, noting that one of them recently was Latin singer Enrique Iglesias.

A massive residential project proposed for the Glendale area at White Oaks also came up during the budget meeting.

One hurdle proponents of the 801-unit, four apartment building development will need to overcome is an exemption from height regulations related to the airport, which is only three kilometres away. Buildings within its radius can be no taller than 15 metres, but the biggest being pitched in the White Oaks project is planned to stand 82.5 metres tall.

When asked by Coun. Tim Balasiuk about whether this project could have a negative impact on the airport, Pilon appeared to select his words carefully.

He said Transport Canada will make a decision on this, but that a number of experts will need to weigh in on the proposal through various studies.

“I don’t suggest they do those often, or regularly, but certainly they have an impact,” said Pilon, referring to regulation exemptions being given.

He said the Niagara airport would be affected negatively if other high-rise buildings in nearby regions and municipalities also receive exemptions related to maximum height, noting that how approaches for landing are affected is a key factor.

The town has not finalized its budget and more committee meetings are scheduled this month, ahead of council giving the final rubber stamp to the spending plan.