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Sat, Sep 23, 2023

County Council Approves De Havilland Project Despite Opposition

Plane Maker to Build Factory and Airfield in South-Central Alberta

Following a public hearing on the matter, the council of Wheatland County, a municipal district east of the city of Calgary in south-central Alberta, Canada, has passed second and third reading to make textual amendments to its West Highway 1 Area Structure Plan and Land Use Bylaw, thereby facilitating construction of a proposed De Havilland Field aircraft manufacturing facility following a public hearing during the regular Tuesday, August 15 council meeting.

The De Havilland Field facility is to be the final assembly site for the storied plane-maker’s DHC-515 Firefighter aircraft, DHC-6 Twin Otter, and the Dash 8-400 aircraft models.

The amendments made by the Wheatland County Council allow De Havilland Aircraft of Canada to commence construction of a new aircraft manufacturing facility and “associated aerospace facilities and businesses” within the county. Additionally, the amendments permits De Havilland to temporarily store an undisclosed number of shipping containers on the proposed airport site, and “move parts and equipment thereabout prior to construction of the aerodrome facility.”

During the public hearing, community and development services general manager Sherry Baers explained: “The developer, De Havilland Aircraft of Canada, is proposing to construct a new aircraft manufacturing facility which will consist of an aircraft assembly facility; a parts-manufacturing and distribution center; a maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility; a runway; and associated commercial and industrial uses.”

A number of stakeholders and ratepayers were in attendance during the public hearing. These, each in accordance with his conscience and aims, spoke in favor of or against the proposed De Havilland Field development. In the argot of the Great White North, the term ratepayer denotes an organization comprising a group of residents of a defined area come together for purpose of addressing issues affecting their community.  

Natasha Fyfe, director of the chamber of commerce of the Wheatland County town of Strathmore, spoke in favor of the development, citing the undertaking’s potential positive economic impacts on Wheatland County, to include “hundreds of jobs during the development phase,” in addition to the estimated 1,500 local jobs the inchoate De Havilland Field stands to generate.

Area developer Neal Coulter contended Wheatland County has seen a surge in property acquisitions since De Havilland announced its intention to build therein. Mr. Coulter’s concern sold some thirty lots during the development’s first phase and, to date, has sold nearly ninety-percent of the lots associated with the project’s second phase.

Notwithstanding substantial support, the De Havilland Field enterprise is not without its detractors, many of whom repudiate the loss of prime agricultural land and caution against the negative impact on property values occasioned by the presence of airports and manufacturing centers.

Landowners expressed concerns over the disbursement of tax monies, arguing De Havilland Field, while certain to bring tax revenue to Wheatland County, would dissuade future residential development—likely compelling developers to shift their foci to neighboring municipalities the likes of Chestermere or Strathmore.

Following the public hearing, members of the Wheatland County council attempted to mollify attending landowners by expressing their collective gratitude for De Havilland’s consideration of the county and explaining that tax revenues and jobs created by the development were apt to retain area youth otherwise inclined to leave in search of opportunity in Calgary and Edmonton. Council-members acknowledged the importance of the county’s agricultural lands, but argued diversification is critical to the area’s sustainability insomuch as a disproportionately large percentage of Wheatland County’s tax revenues derive of agricultural properties.

The council gave second and third readings to both amendments to the West Highway 1 Area Structure Plan, redesignated lands for the De Havilland Field from the Agriculture General District to a Direct Control District, and made textual amendments allowing De Havilland to place storage containers temporarily on the parcels.



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