There’ll be a little less buzz and a little less whine in the air of the Okanagan community of Lake Country following a ruling by a B.C. Supreme Court judge.
Justice Frank Cole has issued an injunction against the Kelowna Ogopogo Radio Controllers Association, ruling its members are breaking a municipal bylaw by flying radio-controlled model planes from a grassy airstrip zoned for agricultural use.
The municipality took the group to court in the spring after receiving noise complaints from nearby chicken farmers, equestrians and even residents who live just above the runway.
“We’re pleased with the ruling in that the judge sided with our intent of the bylaw and our interpretation that we took of the Agricultural Land Reserve Act,” said Mayor James Baker.
John Falconer, a spokesman for the association who represented members in court, did not immediately return a phone call or email.
The group was operating the radio- and WiFi-controlled aircraft, which weigh less than 35 kilograms and do not carry people, on about three hectares of land.
The land is zoned agricultural and among its permitted uses are an unpaved airstrip and helicopter pad. The same uses are permitted under the Agricultural Land Reserve Act.
Both parties agreed the issue came down to an interpretation of the law.
The district argued its bylaw was not meant to include “model aircraft for recreational purposes,” but the association argued the use was permissible because those who drafted the legislation did not exclude the use of model aircraft, and if they had wanted to, they would have said so.
The association also argued the bylaw didn’t define “airstrip” or “aircraft.”
“The words ‘unpaved airstrip and helipad’ must be interpreted as being intended to aid in farm use or a use of complimentary to farming,” said Cole, in a ruling posted online Thursday. “Though it is necessary to interpret broadly what activities are complimentary to agricultural uses, I do not find that the club’s use of model aircraft can be fit into that interpretation.”
Cole, as a result, ruled the bylaw does not permit the airstrip to be used by the model aircraft.
Court cost have yet to be determined, but Baker said taxpayers will be covered by municipal insurance.
The club has said previously that it has more than 100 members aged 10 to 90, began operating in the 1960s, and was incorporated as a registered society in 1977.