By Ted Nickerson
A local pilot noticed during a training flight what appears to be a substantial construction project underway on the federal Pickering Airport Lands.
The pilot, Mark Brooks, posted the photo on social media. Naturally, this gets the immediate attention of Pickering Airport supporters. What is this? Does it negatively impact a future airport?
In fact, this is really good news for a Pickering Airport. What is happening on this site today speaks to the foresight of the Region of Durham and the City of Pickering. Here is what they did years ago.
The Region of Durham reserved enough capacity at the Duffin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant to permit the full economic development of the retained Pickering Airport lands including a future airport.
The 2013 Seaton Master Environmental Servicing Plan (MESP) identifies water and sanitary services extending to Highway 7 and capacity allowances to accommodate future development of the airport lands.
The Region entered into a front-ending development agreement with the Seaton developers to over-size the water and sanitary service trunk lines to allow for the reserved airport lands capacity. This agreement enables the Seaton Landowners to expect future reimbursement (some $70+ million) once development of the airport proceeds.
Is it possible that anti-airport opponents have finally woken up to the true cost of redirecting the lands to other uses? A recent proposal by a strident anti-airport MP would have the airport lands shifted from Transport Canada to Parks Canada. This could stick Parks Canada (the Canadian taxpayer) with repaying the $70+ million to the Seaton developers while enabling the indefinite extension of the cheap leases on the federal lands to a select few corporations and individuals.
To address Seaton development, the MESP identifies the need for two water reservoirs and two pumping stations to be located just north of Highway 7. The Region of Durham subsequently entered into a Licence Agreement with the federal government for two parcels of land (24 acres and 22 acres) on which to build these facilities. These future facilities will be in locations where they will not constrain the operation of the future airport.
And what we are seeing now is the start of construction for the first of those water reservoirs and the associated pumping station at Sideline 26. These facilities will support growth in Seaton including the employment lands immediately south of Highway 7 – the Pickering Innovation Corridor! This water supply will directly support Kubota’s new facility under construction immediately south of Highway 7.
So, why is this important for the development of the Pickering Airport lands?
Construction of the reservoir and pumping station on Sideline 26 signals the potential for the first phase of development of the federal airport lands. This new reservoir will enter service in about 2 years. The servicing capacity for the first phase of economic development of the Pickering lands will be sitting there at Highway 7 primed for extension northward.
The investments into water, sewer, roads, and other civic infrastructure projects in preparation for the new airport, both planned and built, will add up to hundreds of millions over the years. The companies and individuals now enjoying the privilege of cheap temporary leases on the publicly owned land with these services should pause and reflect. Their lobby efforts to extend their land leases are inappropriate unless they are willing to address the real cost of what they ask.
Full development of the Pickering lands will require construction of additional water and sanitary services networks i.e. more pumping stations, reservoirs etc. These new networks will draw upon the capacities reserved years ago for the federal lands by the Region and the City.
Thank you to the Region and the City for your foresight.
Initial concern – Resolved. All is good.
Seaton MESP – Exhibit 4-1