News / Vancouver

Airport and Richmond bicker over building heights

YVR recently applied to Transport Canada to limit building height in some areas, including the city centre.

A pilot taxis an Air Canada Airbus A320-200 to a gate after arriving at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Monday February 3, 2014.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

A pilot taxis an Air Canada Airbus A320-200 to a gate after arriving at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Monday February 3, 2014.

Richmond’s mayor says he’ll do everything within his power to oppose efforts by Vancouver International Airport to further limit the height of new buildings in the rapidly densifying suburb.

“What they want to do in certain areas of our city centre, is very significantly limit the height,” Malcolm Brodie told Metro.

“And that is going to have an impact on the development vision for these parties.”

If you’ve noticed the recent condo boom in Richmond, look a little closer: none of the buildings are over 14 storeys high, or 146 feet. That’s because the entire municipality is under a special aeronautical zoning regulation imposed by Transport Canada, to ensure airplanes constantly landing and taking off from Vancouver International Airport can do so safely.

The airport authority recently applied to Transport Canada to further limit the height in some areas, including the city centre, where Richmond wants to allow more high-density building to continue.

The airport says the application is necessary because at some point in the future, the authority may need to build a third runway:

“If a new runway was added, it would have its own flight path,” Arianna Dametto, a spokesperson for the airport authority, wrote in an email. “The proposed amendments to the current aeronautical zoning would accommodate this new flight path in addition to the current flight paths in place for the north and south runway.”

Brodie says consultation with the city and with affected landowners and residents should have happened before the application. But the airport authority says “detailed consultation” will be part of the process.

“If in the future, Vancouver Airport Authority should decide it is necessary to build a third runway, a lengthy and comprehensive multi-year process of environmental, noise, community and construction consultation will take place,” Dametto wrote.

“All affected stakeholders will have the opportunity to voice their thoughts and give their input. Following this consultation process, any decisions regarding usage and operation of a new runway, including noise and time restrictions, will be determined by the regulator – Transport Canada.”

Brodie is sceptical that a third runway is necessary and he wonders whether it will ever come to pass. He points out that Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world, operates with just two runways.

“What are you going to tell landowners? How are they going to know when this is not a factor?” Brodie said. “You don’t know if you’re going to build it, you don’t know when you’re going to build it, so what you’re doing is permanently limiting the develop-ability of certain parcels of land.”

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