By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
CAYUGA—Haldimand County is moving forward in addressing the concerns of Cayuga residents fed up with the intrusive nature of operations at Skydive Ontario.
The issue was first brought to light in a turbulent Council meeting last summer. A large crowd gathered in the council chambers to express their frustration at the noise generated by the company’s airplanes flying over nearby homes on a frequent basis. Business owner Jeff King was present at that meeting, which devolved into an argument that led Haldimand Mayor Ken Hewitt to threaten the crowd with removal from the chambers if they could not maintain decorum.
Resident Brian Grappa said in his 2019 appearance before Council, “People don’t want to come home. You can’t carry on a conversation with the neighbour. It’s brutal, and it has been going on for three years…. It is a constant, whining, droning noise.”
Notably, Grappa said he had spoken with the offices of MP Diane Finley, MPP Toby Barrett, and Transport Canada, but that Transport Canada directed him to the local municipality. At the time, Hewitt pledged to set up a community group to address the issues. However, the County has run into an immoveable roadblock since any business that involves aviation falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government. This means that the regulatory powers the County would normally have in regard to land use, nuisance, noise, and building permit processes cannot overrule federal powers.
“Recognizing the above, Haldimand County has asked its lawyers to determine possible avenues which would allow the County to exert some regulatory control over Skydive’s operations,” said a June 30 press release. “Each of these involve complex and novel legal issues.”
As a result of those legal consultations, the County is turning the issue back to Transport Canada – the federal agency responsible for aviation businesses. The County has filed a formal complaint with Transport Canada against Skydive Ontario and is seeking to be more heavily involved in regulating the operation of the business. The County alleges that the initial federal operation certificate issued to Skydive Ontario was incorrect and therefore does not “allow it to operate in its current location”. The County argues that any replacement certificate should require some level of municipal input and approval.
The complaint goes on to assert that the construction of a new hangar on the premises should have included public consultations, as would other projects of that nature in the community.
Lastly, the complaint references a “public safety issue” related to the discharge of firearms on the property. Although the issue does not directly relate to the aviation operations of the company, Haldimand County is “questioning the appropriateness of permitting the discharge of firearms on a property used for aviation purposes”.
The Press reached out to Ward 2 Councillor John Metcalfe to comment on the issue in his ward, but he declined at this time due to the ongoing legal nature of the issue. Jeff King, owner of Skydive Ontario, likewise declined to respond. Haldimand County is awaiting a response from Transport Canada before taking any further action.