Alpine Aviation owners Gerd Mannsperger, left, and Janet Sanders pose for a photo with their dog Tutshi on dock #11 on Schwatka Lake in Whitehorse on Aug. 26. The city has postponed an Aug. 28 inspection of dock #11 citing safety concerns of limited parking on Miles Canyon Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

City delays inspection amid controversy over Schwatka Lake dock

Parking pressures postpones plans

Turns out City of Whitehorse inspectors did not inspect the dock space used by Alpine Aviation on Aug. 28 after all, with the 10:30 a.m. inspection postponed in light of the recent controversy over the Schwatka Lake dock.

In an Aug. 26 email from the city to Alpine Aviation owners Gerd Mannsperger and Janet Sanders, officials stated: “The City has been following the social media and newspaper stories generated about the inspection scheduled for Wednesday, August 28.

“Please be advised that the inspection will be postponed until another date and time. As you are aware, there is very limited parking available at the pull-out – we are concerned about safety being reduced due to an overflow of vehicles parked along Miles Canyon Road.”

Alpine Aviation went public with the issue over the dock space it leases from the city Aug. 26, arguing the development permit condition Alpine 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.

During an Aug. 26 interview at its Schwatka Lake site, Mannsperger argued losing the dock space would mean losing 25 per cent of its capacity. And that could impact jobs.

The current 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.

On Aug. 27 and 28, for example, a Beaver aircraft is there to have a maintenance inspection done.

Sanders also pointed out a shorter dock space resulting from the loss of #11 would make it more likely that planes at #12 could bump into one another.

“It becomes a safety issue for managing the airplanes,” Sanders said.

After receiving the city’s email that the inspection had been postponed, she and Mannsperger said it seems ironic the city is citing safety concerns around parking as a reason to postpone the inspection.

In an email they both noted parking is one of the most contentious issues in the area and if the City of Whitehorse implemented its 2015 Schwatka Lake area plan as proposed there would be more parking and “the entire premise of removing one of our dock sites would be mute.

“The city has stated the major hold up releasing more dock spaces is the lack of available parking. If the city put as much effort into completing the plan, as they do with finding creative ways to stifle business, we might actually have a functional piece of public infrastructure to encourage economic growth.”

It’s troubling, as well they added, that the idea of public attention seems to frighten officials.

“City council has several times stated that transparency is a key component of city business practices, but when faced with public attention, city planning officials decline to execute their duties in the light of the day. Instead they resort to delay tactics to ensure they have minimum scrutiny,” they wrote. “Maybe the city should reconsider its approach if they are embarrassed to show their faces to the public they serve.”

They went on to thank supporters and stated they will keep “everyone updated as to what happens next”.

Mannsperger said it has only been in the last couple of years of the company’s 22-year history that there’s been any issues with the city, arguing it seems entrenched in getting Alpine Aviation to leave the spot.

Mannsperger said the city had encouraged him to bid on a dock space at the north end of Schwatka Lake now operated by Alkan Air, which Mannsperger said is a much larger company than Alpine. The space at the north end is not the right fit for Alpine, which does not want to compete against Alkan for the site, he explained.

For it’s part, the city provided some details on the matter.

Questioned why the inspection had been postponed, city spokesperson Myles Dolphin reiterated the parking concerns.

He also provided a backgrounder on the dock situation, noting the city provided a concession to Alpine in 2016 to use the dock #11 temporarily in exchange for public parking. It argues with public parking now available at the site, dock #11 is ready to be occupied by the next person on the city’s wait list.

On the morning of Aug. 28, a clarification to the backgrounder was also provided by the city, stating the permit does not in fact require evacuation, but rather states the dock must be modified or an agreement put in place with the next pilot to oversee dock #11. If that’s complied with, Alpine can continue using the site until the end of the 2019 season, the city stated.

“The intent was to allow Alpine Aviation the use of the dock for the entire season but ensure that the modifications could be completed without risk of freeze-up in October if left to end of season to complete (and thus causing hardship to incoming 2020 new dock holder),” it stated.

The city did not specify who the next dock holder would be.

A copy of the permit provided by Alpine Aviation shows the wording of the condition as: “Modification to dock, or removal, required by Aug. 28, 2019. A site sketch shall be submitted to the city for approval prior to development work. As an alternative proof of dock sharing agreement with the entering permit holder for Dock Site #11 may be submitted to the City by Aug. 28, 2019 (agreement effective date commencing April 1, 2020).”

There’s a total of 18 operators on the waitlist with five of those being commercial businesses.

“The City continues to be supportive of the aviation industry and is working to implement the Schwatka Lake Area Plan to create opportunities for pilots on the waitlist,” reads the city’s document.

No information was provided on when a new inspection might happen.

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

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