Gerry and Sue Schneider love their home on Airport Road in Mount Hope.

They've lived there for 15 years. It has a large attached garage where Gerry can do mechanical work, including fixing up a child-size Jeep for his grandchildren.

Most of all, they love their neighbours.

"A bunch of us got together one night, and we said 'The worst thing about this whole thing is we've all got to move and we can't all move together,'" Sue said. "We're all so close."

About the cargo facility

  • 60,000 square feet
  • Costs $12 million, $8 million of which came from the federal and provincial governments. The rest is from TradePort, which runs the airport.
  • Construction is scheduled to start in the fall, with completion by next summer.
  • Will contain truck docking areas and refrigeration for pharmaceuticals, fresh flowers and produce, among other goods.
  • The city acts as a landlord for the new facility, as well as the rest of the airport.

The Schneiders are one of six homeowners who recently wrote to the city asking for it to purchase their homes. Their property abuts land where the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport plans to build a new $12-million cargo terminal. The city is investigating their request.

The Schneiders have lived near the airport their whole lives. They don't mind that it's there, even though Sue said the noise is so loud that it's difficult to sleep at night.

But the cargo terminal will be right beyond the tree line at the back of their property, said Gerry, a retired truck driver.

"It'll be right in the backyard," he said. "The planes are going to go right there."

The group of Airport Road residents penned the letter after a May 16 meeting where they saw plans for the new cross-dock facility. It is scheduled to open next summer.

Among their concerns:

  • The health impact of aircraft emissions, which they estimate will be as close as 500 feet from their homes.
  • Increased noise from planes and trucks, which could result in hearing loss and disrupted sleep, among other ailments.
  • The impact on the local water system.

"To us, the only resolution would be the purchase of our properties," the owners wrote.

Third busiest cargo airport in Canada

The property owners want a response by July 31 before they obtain a lawyer. Council voted last week to investigate it, and city staff will do that this summer, said Guy Paparella, director of industrial parks and airport development division planning.

Three other homeowners want to be bought out, but they're in the airport expansion zone, which are lands previously identified as being needed for airport growth, Paparella said. The Schneiders and their five neighbours are not in that group.

The 60,000-square-foot "cross dock" facility will have truck docking stations and refrigeration for flowers, fresh produce and pharmaceutical products.

Construction will create about 50 jobs, while the facility itself will create as many as 400 direct and indirect spin-off jobs, said Frank Scremin, president and CEO of the airport.

In 2011, Hamilton was the third busiest cargo airport in Canada in terms of volume, moving 85,145 tonnes.

Good neighbours

"From our perspective, (the project) is very important," Scremin said. "It's really a key driver for us."

The airport wants to be a good neighbour, he said.

"We're keeping the folks that are directly impacted advised of what's happening, and trying to understand their concerns and mitigate them as much as we can," he said.

Coun. Brenda Johnson, who represents the area, wants residents to see updated plans for the cargo facility.

"It's going to look at lot different," she said.

House for sale

However, she's pleased staff is looking into a buy out.

"You can't go on the fly and say no for no reason, or yes for no reason," she said. "At least we're looking into it."

The Schneiders have a for-sale sign on their lawn now.

"This is a great place to live," Gerry said. "We've got great neighbours. It's central to a lot of places. It's good."

But if plans proceed as they are, "we just want out," Sue said.