Alpine Aviation owners Gerd Mannsperger and Janet Sanders help a plane dock at dock #12 on Schwatka Lake in Whitehorse on Aug. 26. The company has been given a 30 extension on signing away dock #11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Alpine Aviation gets 30 more days to deal with dock space issue

A potential agreement is in the works, Whitehorse council heard Sept. 3

What the City of Whitehorse has described as granting a 30-day extension to a clause in Alpine Aviation’s development permit, Alpine Aviation is describing as being granted another 30 days before it has to essentially sign away dock space on Schwatka Lake.

Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services, told Whitehorse city council Sept. 3 an additional 30 days has been granted in light of a potential site sharing agreement being reached between Alpine and the incoming operator of site 11 next April.

Gerd Mannsperger, who owns Alpine Aviation with partner Janet Saunders, said Sept. 4, his lawyer drafted the letter of intent, but he continues to feel frustrated at the process and pressured to give up the dock space at site 11 on Schwatka Lake. Losing the space would amount to losing 25 per cent of the company’s capacity and that could mean the loss of jobs for the company, he and Saunders have said.

On Aug. 26, Alpine went public with the issue of dock space it leases from the city, arguing the development permit condition signed with the city in March requiring dock #11 to be removed or an agreement put in place with the next dock holder by Aug. 28 is not reasonable given the busy time of year for the company, safety issues and the need for dock space to accommodate visitors flying in.

In social media posts, Alpine invited supporters to come out to its Schwatka Lake site during the inspection.

The development permit for the space requires dock #11 — one of three spaces the company oversees — to be removed or sold by Aug. 28.

Dock #11 is attached to dock #12, also operated by Alpine.

Mannsperger said he signed the permit under pressure in order to ensure Alpine had the space it needs, with #11 being deemed as a space for transient aircraft or boats that may be overnighting in Whitehorse. It’s the only dock space in Whitehorse that’s open to such visitors.

The city inspection that had been scheduled for Aug. 28 was subsequently put off to another date.

Coun. Samson Hartland, who attended the Sept. 3 council session by phone, asked for an update on the situation. Gau highlighting the letter of intent that could result in an agreement for Alpine to use the dock. Thus the city granted the 30-day extension.

“We’re hopeful we can work through these obstacles,” Gau said.

While Hartland replied that this highlights a larger issue over how the Schawtka Lake aerodrome is managed, he also said he’s pleased that “clearer heads” are starting to prevail.

Coun. Laura Cabott also expressed her hope that an agreement can be reached for the site on Schwatka Lake.

Mannsperger, however, said he continues to be frusterated by the situation. Customers have written letters of support, but no progress has been made. There’s also an issue of jurisdiction as the city oversees how land is used while the territory and federal governments are responsible for water bodies and air space.

“This is cross-jurisdictional,” he said. “I don’t know where it leaves us.”

Meanwhile, Christoph Alther, president of the Canadian Pilots and Owners Association Yukon, was also on-hand for the council meeting and called for the city to look at Schwatka Lake as a whole and fully implement the 2015 Schwatka Lake management plan which would address parking and add in dock space for pilots. There’s currently a waiting list of 18 who want dock space on the lake.

He stressed the need for a meeting between the city, territory, pilots and Schwatka Lake users to look at the issue.

And as he’s done before he said COPA Yukon would be willing to work on the parking issue pro-bono in the interest of moving the work forward and opening up dock space for pilots.

“We ask the city to move forward with the plan,” he said.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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