A small plane is parked in front of Mascouche airport on November 13, 2014. The city-owned airport, 30 kilometres north of Montreal, has about 30,000 takeoffs and landings per year, primarily from the five flight schools and the recreational pilots based there.
Marie-France Coallier / Montreal Gazette
Residents of St-Roch-de-l’Achigan, 40 kilometres north of Montreal, rejected a proposal Sunday for an airfield in the municipality of fewer than 5,000.In a nonbinding referendum, 96 per cent of those who voted said no, according to Sébastien Marcil, spokesperson for the citizens movement opposing the airfield. The turnout was 52 per cent, he said.Opponents argued the small airport would negatively affect residents’ quality of life, as well as the environment and the local economy.The “Coalition SRA” group, seeking to mobilize citizens against the project in the lead-up to the federal election, has posted huge signs on Highway 25 asking the federal government to reject it.“We’re talking about moving one of the busiest aerodromes in Canada,” Marcil said.“In Mascouche, there were 30,000 planes taking off or landing per year, which is unacceptable for a small municipality of 5,000 inhabitants,” he told Presse canadienne.The group Aerodrome SRA wants to relocate the former Mascouche airport, which closed in 2016, to St-Roch.Marcil charged the group has not submitted impact studies showing how it would affect noise, the environment and the economy.Alexandre Caron, owner of the Horizon campground, said in an interview he feared that noise from the airfield would disturb his customers.“People enjoy my campsite from June to September. This is the time when this airport will operate at maximum capacity. It’s like having a lawnmower over your head all day long. It’s going to have a direct impact on my business,” he said.St-Roch mayor Yves Prud’homme, who initiated Sunday’s referendum, said the city council has not taken a stand for or against the project.“Our responsibility is to represent the citizens. The municipality will represent the citizens in talks with the Minister of Transportation, regardless of the outcome of the referendum,” he said.Federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau is expected to decide on the project by the beginning of September, he said. The referendum is not binding, so the final decision will be up to Garneau.Even if he says that his administration is neutral, Prud’homme said the promoters of the airport “botched” the project.“Normally, when you put forward this kind of project, you have to work in partnership with the citizens. You have to sit down with the representatives of the municipality,” he said.Quebec’s farmer’s union, the Union des producteurs agricoles, also opposes the project in the mainly agricultural region.“It would involve paving over high quality land where vegetable crops and field crops have been cultivated for decades,” the UPA said in a statement.In an online document, the project’s promoters claim the airport site, which would cover 357,000 square metres, would “become a pole of attraction for the development of companies related to mechanical, electrical and avionic maintenance” and create “high-tech, high-paying jobs”.It states that the former Mascouche airport employed 75 people full-time and 70 part-time.The promoters of the airport did not respond to an interview request from Presse canadienne.