There has not been a lot of good news at the Quesnel Regional Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic, as Central Mountain Air (CMA) suspended its flights in and out of Quesnel in April, and city council is expecting the airport to run a deficit this year.
But council heard some promising news at its Nov. 24 meeting, where it was asked to approve a five-year lease with Kismet Management Ltd. for approximately 1.56 hectares of land at the airport.
Jeff Norburn, the city’s director of community services, says the lease will generate approximately $17,900 annually for the city, which is about $11,500 more than was generated by the previous lease with Westside Logging Ltd.
The City of Quesnel had entered into a 20-year agreement with Westside Logging Ltd. back in 2014 for Westside Logging to lease approximately 5,600 square metres of land at the airport. Westside Logging Ltd. and C&C Wood Products Ltd. constructed a hangar on the lands. Earlier this year, Westside Logging and C&C Wood Products went into receivership and were acquired by Quesnel Investment Corporation; their assets included the hangar at the airport.
Kismet Management has made an offer to purchase the hangar from Quesnel Investment Corporation and would like to enter into a five-year lease agreement with the city for the lands previously leased to Westside Logging, as well as an adjacent hectare of land.
Working in partnership with Firewolf Contracting Ltd., Kismet Management plans to use the hangar for a light manufacturing operation for the distribution of prefabricated housing units using structural insulated panels, explained Norburn.
“Firewolf Contracting Ltd. has indicated they are interested in constructing additional hangars and facilities on the property and upgrading or constructing new taxiways at the airport,” Norburn told council. “Initially, it is anticipated that the structural insulated panel housing units will be provided to support a business in the region, but the company anticipates that in the future, they expect to ship these units by air to locations throughout northern Canada. There are significant economic benefits to the community and to the airport should this business venture succeed and expand its operation to include shipping these units by air throughout northern Canada.”
The city must grant its consent for the transfer of ownership of the hangar and approve the lease agreement, as the agreement with Westside Logging stipulates that any buildings constructed on the leased lands will be vested in the city upon termination of the agreement. Council granted its consent for the hangar transfer of ownership at the Nov. 24 meeting and agreed to enter into a five-year lease with Kismet Management Ltd. The lease is effective Dec. 1, 2020, to Nov. 30, 2025.
“With all the COVID challenges we’ve been having with the airport lands and the discussions we’ve been having for years even before that about trying to get investment at the airport, this is extremely exciting,” said Coun. Scott Elliott. “I want to thank the manager of the airport [Jon Pucek]. I know he’s been working diligently to look at different alternatives and ways to make money and advertise what Quesnel has to offer, and I think this is just fantastic news for us, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Coun. Martin Runge asked what happens with the timber if there is logging on that hectare of land and if the city might see any financial benefit.
“I think it’s appropriate we take a look at the timber on there and make a value decision when we do that,” said city manager Byron Johnson.
Mayor Bob Simpson wondered if the city needed to do some subdivision of the airport property if it’s bringing that new portion of land into the lease.
Norburn says staff had budgeted some funding this year to look at subdividing some of the airport lands, but with the revenue shortfall resulting in the loss of CMA flights, it was one of the things they chose not to proceed with to save money.
“It was largely sort of being initiated in case people wanted to purchase land, in which case we would definitely have to do the subdivision,” he said. “We’ve leased the land we have there now without going through a formal subdivision process, so there’s no reason why we can’t do it in this case, but the idea of subdividing that into lots is still a good idea, and it’s something we would like to see done at the airport if we can.”