Reiswig residents want planes to take off

In their final meeting together the outgoing municipal council accepted a petition from a group of 28 Winfield residents last week.

In their final meeting together the outgoing municipal council accepted a petition from a group of 28 Winfield residents last week. At issue is an airstrip and the traffic taking off from it.

The airstrip is located on a piece of ALR property that runs parallel to Lodge Road. Members of the Kelowna Ogopogo Radio Controllers Club (KORC) have been using the field, with permission from the landowner, since the summer to fly their radio controlled model airplanes.

When the possibility of using the site on Lodge Road first came up, the KORC spoke with municipal staff to find out if pursuing their hobby at that location would contravene the zoning bylaw for the A1 zoned property.

Mike Riley, Director of Development Services, says that under the A1 zoning a permitted secondary use of the property is an unpaved airstrip.

Due to the unique nature of this particular airstrip, staff asked for the Agricultural Land Commission’s (ALC) opinion as to what constitutes an unpaved airstrip. The ALC’s response was that an unpaved airstrip used for radio-controlled planes is in keeping with the allowable uses of the property.

Riley says that while staff chose to adopt the ALC interpretation of an unpaved runway, it is ultimately council that will define the term.

“We interpret our own bylaws,” said Riley, “There’s no need to turn to the ALC and say ‘what does this mean?’”

The opposition to the KORC’s activities comes from the Reiswig Road area which borders the north side of the airfield. Residents there are upset with the level of noise produced by the planes and the increased traffic on their once quiet dead-end road. With more than 100 members in the club, the residents say the flights seem to be almost non-stop.

The KORC says it chose the field on Lodge Road in part because of an already high ambient noise level in the area. John Falconer, spokesperson for KORC, points to the proximity major municipal roads, a nearby railway and being situated beneath the approach path for commercial airplanes on their way to the airport as preexisting sources of noise.

Another issue that came up was personal safety. One plane has already crashed into a homeowner’s backyard and additional ‘close calls’ have been reported.

Falconer says the accident was found to be due to a faulty component in the pilot’s controller and emphasizes that it was not due to human error. He says that another accident is unlikely but admits that it is always a possibility.

The petition calls for council to put an end to the KORC’s activities on Lodge Road. The signatories also indicated by way of their spokesperson, Dale Collins, that relocating the airstrip to the far south end of the property would also be acceptable. The matter will come back before council after staff has prepared a report on it.