Mark Rendell
Mark Rendell

Collecting Rent: City likely to grant lease on encroached Old Airport Road lot

Lease cut from 10 to five years, environmental assessments required

After a week of wavering on the issue, City Council decided Monday to grant construction company RTL Robinson Ltd. a lease to a large gravel lot off Old Airport Road that the company’s been encroaching on over number of years.

The 32,000 square metre lot, which backs onto a small, unnamed body of water between Jackfish Lake and Frame Lake, is crammed with an assortment of trucks, trailers, tires and portables. It’s been used by RTL, which leases three adjacent lots along Old airport Road, for years, and since 2007 the company has been paying the City around $16,500 a year in property taxes for the lot. However, RTL does not have a lease on the property, which means it hasn’t had to pay an estimated $28,500 in annual lease fees to the City.

During Monday’s Municipal Services Committee Meeting, council agreed to give RTL a five-year lease to the property on the condition the company conducts a baseline environmental study of the property in the first year. More extensive environmental assessments will be required later on and RTL can apply to have its lease extended a further five years by council.

When the plan was presented at last week’s MSC meeting, several councillors felt providing the lease would validate the unauthorized use of municipal land by private enterprise. As Coun. Adrian Bell put it, “I’m concerned that we’ll be saying ‘It’s ok to encroach on city land. We’ll sign a lease afterwards that makes it legitimate.’”

Administration pointed out the lot in question only became city land in 2007. Still, to allay further concerns, city administration cut the lease length from 10 to five years and added caveats requiring RTL to complete environmental assessments.

These changes won over most councillors, with the exception of Coun. Dan Wong, who wasn’t convinced the environmental assessment went far enough. All the agreement requires, he pointed out, is that RTL look into the history of contaminants on the lot during the first year of the lease – they don’t actually need to sample soil until several years into the lease.

“The timelines are too broad and we’re asking for far too little,” said Wong.

His amendment asking for more in-depth soil sampling in the first year of the lease did not appear to gain much traction with other councillors.

The issue will be voted on during a council meeting on Monday, April 27.