Selling the Farm

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Tim Wood
Posts: 10
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2020 12:52 pm

Selling the Farm

Post by Tim Wood »

Dear Friends, A week ago I asked Tracey to distribute this message to our Board. Please consider my reasons for opposing the proposed sale of parts of our airfield. This issue is being vigorously promoted by some individuals in our club.

" I would like to clearly state all the reasons why I am opposed to the sale of land belonging to York Soaring Association at this time. I would appreciate it if you could circulate this to all members of the YSA board ahead of the next board meeting.

1. Sale of parts of our field would bring new neighbours close to our operations and risk eventual interference with our operations. This has been demonstrated in other places, for example Toronto's international airport in the 1950s and 1960s, where large scale political resistance arose from newly-built residential neighbourhoods. Closer to home, our immediate residential neighbours east of our field have already curtailed the way we use two of our runways

2. We don't need the money from such a sale due to any kind of present financial distress at YSA- this is in spite of over 12 months of the Covid pandemic and partial lock down. Personally I expect that membership numbers will increase after the pandemic, with a strengthening of our financial position.

3. Our field is a core asset. Organizations sell off core assets only in near-liquidation situations. For example mining companies dont sell off their orebodies; auto manufacturers dont sell off their assembly lines.

4. What would happen to the proceeds of a land sale? Do we have any confidence that the money, for which we have no immediate need, would be wisely invested? Would the money go to further pet projects that might not be in the best interests of all members? As one club member puts it, would it just burn holes in our pockets?

5. Land sales would preclude future development of our property, such as the construction of hangars, T hangars, accomodation of other clubs that might combine with YSA, or possible airpark development. Our field is worth more to us now and in the future than the lowest value of all potential uses: selling to a local farmer.

6. If we have future needs for urgent and justified capital projects, other routes to financing are preferable to land sales, such as borrowing from banks or members, rather than "selling the farm".

7. Should the Board decide to proceed with a land sale, it should be put to the membership at large. I would suggest that two thirds majority should be needed for approval.

How do other clubs view land sales of their properties? I am prepared to conduct a survey of other Canadian gliding clubs for YSA if the Board is interested.

My interest in this issue is that we should pass on to future generations of Ontario glider pilots the excellent facilities and assets passed to us by earlier generations. We need to have a healthy, positive view of the future.

Thanks

Tim Wood "

I expect that there are many additional reasons for rejecting the land sale proposal. I invite other members to articulate them. Please speak up now.
Don't be shy or feel intimidated.

Thanks, Tim Wood
Dave Bax
Posts: 53
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 10:53 am

Re: Selling the Farm

Post by Dave Bax »

Thanks for posting Tim. I expect there will be many varied responses!

Personally, my thoughts are that we would need a very good reason to sell such an asset as the land. I do not think the time is now, for the following reasons:

1. I am not convinced by the board mantra of: "Sell land, build/improve infrastructure and fleet then new members will join". YSA have been improving infrastructure and the fleet for many years now, with some occasional brief success at maintaining membership but generally a membership decline has continued. I would prefer "increase membership then build". I do not think selling land will contribute to either growth or decline of membership numbers.

2. Whilst currently there are some 130 acres not needed by the operation, any/all of these acres may be useful in the future. For instance, the currently leased land to the south includes a well tiled potential east west runway (i.e. after preparation, a better/longer 23/05); the leased land to the east may well be needed for new infrastructure in the distant future (carpark, tie-downs, hangar or even a clubhouse); the leased land to the west would be needed if we ever went to a winch operation (to move cables as far as possible from clubhouse/carpark) and, I believe, also includes a potential north-south already tiled strip that could replace the current 32/14); any leased land to the north may be needed to extend a runway for winching. Winching is not on the cards now, but anything could change in 15 years time, we would unlikely to be in a position to buy back any land.

3. As Tim pointed out, if one or more clubs (gliding or some other aero related) melded with us, their "requirements" are as yet unknown, e.g. they may want to build their own infrastructure alongside us, rather than directly join us.

4. We have leased rather cheaply (for good reason at the time, i.e. to have tiled land to the south). Perhaps now is the time to seek a more economic lease rate. I do not think any member would object to continued 130 acres of leasing, so long as there was always a straightforward way to end the lease of any part of the land we suddenly needed. Leasing provides regular income to the club, although I agree rather minimal at the moment.

5. Whilst in this COVID scenario, we really do no not know the short term membership situation, let alone the medium term. We can guess it will be bad this year, hopefully a reasonable membership recovery when COVID largely reduced to normality. But whatever the numbers, post-covid will be the time to assess whether commencing capital projects over 100k is right or not.

6. When the time does come to initiate large expenditure, thought needs to be given to the key OPERATIONAL areas first: maintenance of current gliders/tow planes. Then consider where the money will come from. Low membership numbers and low volunteer rate necessitate increase in fees across the board. Demolishing the old house for safety reasons is not an overwhelming expense, building a new clubhouse or classroom on that site will be. Tiling runways, great, but a tiling of a runway will put it out of use for 2 or 3 years possibly (consider the leased land that is already tiled instead?)

Finally, the land is YSA, it contributes to what makes YSA special. Our key objective at the moment is MEMBERSHIP: retaining current membership, reaching out to recently ex-members, seeking new members. I wish the Membership/Marketing committee well in this important endeavor.
Tracey Brake
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 12:13 pm

Re: Selling the Farm

Post by Tracey Brake »

Hello All,

York Soaring now has a planning committee. This committee's mandate is to look at how to keep the club viable into the future. There are many topics of conversation at this meeting. Everything we have discussed is just that, a discussion. The process is to make some recommendations to the board of directors. The board of directors will then decide on a course of action. We have bylaws in place for the club. Decisions that require membership voting will be done according to our bylaws.

At this time, it is premature to have this discussion. The board has appointed several of the committee members to do investigation about the land. We are a flying club and the committee needs to frame its work for the purpose of a viable plan for us to be a flying club.

At this time, no decisions have been made and will not be made for some time to come, after the research is completed.

When appropriate, we will bring this topic to the members.

If you have any more concerns of this topic, please speak to one of the board members.

Thank you
Tracey Brake
Charles Petersen
Posts: 91
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2020 1:59 pm

Re: Selling the Farm

Post by Charles Petersen »

I write this as my personal opinion, not representing the opinion of either York's Planning Committee or Board of Directors.

Yes, the sale of some parcels of our land is irreversible, but LAND is not a CORE ASSET.

A core asset is defined as "an asset of an enterprise considered to be essential to its success".

So the land which is in use for club purposes (runways, hangars, campground, septic system, etc) is fairly considered 'Core'.

But the land which is not in use (other than as a rental property) at present, and for which we can't envision a foreseeable purpose for future operations, (additional runways, relocated clubhouse, additional hangars) is just not a 'core asset'.

So, please stop[p advancing that inflammatory and false characterization.

We own 200 acres. That is a historical consequence of Walter needing a second 100-acre farm to extend the potential runway length. SOSA operates on ~100 acres (~30 dedicated to conservation for tax breaks as it is unsaleable anyway), as does Toronto Soaring and GLGC

As a result of the configuration of the 2 fams, we are arguably land rich and needed improvements/replacements poor.

So, this was discussed at the Planning Committee, which includes members of the Board, and then further at the Board. The Board appointed a small ad hoc committee, Jim Freyett, Stan Martin and myself, to examine two sides of this question: 1) which land parcel(s) are without a foreseeable future use for club/flying operations, and 2) if we were to reallocate that asset, how would we address the concerns like disage=reeable neighbours and mo=ost important, where would we choose to 'invest' it.

By 'invest', I don't mean a financial investment, - I mean the expenditure on things like any additions to our runways, levelling and tiling 32/14, paying down debt, aircraft improvement (recovering the Pawnee for example) and/or replacement (metal to composite).

So this question is being thoroughly, patiently and regarding the full picture, investigated.

To continue to useCore Asset is unnecessarily inflammatory, and a breach of the etiquette of committee structure/authority/confidentiality. Please desist.
Charles Petersen
Posts: 91
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2020 1:59 pm

Re: Selling the Farm

Post by Charles Petersen »

Sorry, Tracey, you posted while I was composing.
Stan Martin
Posts: 43
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 12:12 pm

Re: Selling the Farm

Post by Stan Martin »

The role of the planning committee is you look at what is best for the club and to look ahead to the bring together a collective direction. It’s fair to say selling parts of the unused land may be a consideration. However, it is not the prime consideration. There will be many things brought forward that focused on making the club better for it members and stronger as an organization. An organization that intends to outlast the current generation. Make no mistake, we will want to make proposals that intend to attract new members. Our intention is clear, to make York the best site for the sport in southern Ontario and make that apparent.

Sufficient to say then, selling property is not our focus. It’s not even a proposal at this stage. What we want to present is a vision for the club which contains means to achieve that vision. If selling small pieces of the property help us to achieve those objectives and we have the clarity of vision for members to agree, then we will have a proposal. It’s premature at this stage to get worked up about something that does not yet exist.
Last edited by Stan Martin on Fri May 21, 2021 8:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
Ken Ashworth
Posts: 11
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2020 9:45 am

Re: Selling the Farm

Post by Ken Ashworth »

Core Asset
English words are amazing in their meaning, nuance, their uses in professions, and colloquial and cultural uses.
CORE and ASSET are such words.
Core asset has a specific and very important professional meaning.
Core asset also has a general meaning, wider in scope for the non-professional. Core implies an important part, whereas an asset implies value.

Everyone has communicated some very good thoughts and comments, but I think Stan has described the situation very well.

Lastly, does are legal club Incorporation allow selling part of our land?
Tim Wood
Posts: 10
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2020 12:52 pm

Re: Selling the Farm

Post by Tim Wood »

With the proposal by Xplornet to build a communications tower dangerously close to our runways and their approaches we have a new reason to shy away from selling off "the farm", or any parts of it.
Stan Martin
Posts: 43
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 12:12 pm

Re: Selling the Farm

Post by Stan Martin »

The rebuttal:
Sale of parts of our field would bring new neighbors close to our operations and risk eventual interference with our operations. This has been demonstrated in other places, for example Toronto's international airport in the 1950s and 1960s, where large scale political resistance arose from newly-built residential neighborhoods. Closer to home, our immediate residential neighbors east of our field have already curtailed the way we use two of our runways.”
Every property and location has different rules as how it can be used and what can be built. The property to the east of us is a case in point. It was grandfathered in may years ago to allow housing. We have seen new housing there over the years. The west side of the property in question has no access and is worked by two farmers. Farmland in now protected aggressively. The land will not be allowed to be anything but farmland under the current rules. Should that change, the land to the north of us would be the first to be developed logically. That would be right in front of two runways. This area is not our concern currently by the same expectation of the rules. This argument about neighbours is not the correctly considered here. It is condition that already exists. Such as it does, selling the property described is not something that would increase our exposure.
We don't need the money from such a sale due to any kind of present financial distress at YSA- this is in spite of over 12 months of the Covid pandemic and partial lock down. Personally I expect that membership numbers will increase after the pandemic, with a strengthening of our financial position
The subcommittee formed to investigate this issue of expected financial obligations. It has provided a report. The report demonstrates there will be financial challenges over the next 5 years that has potential liabilities of 3-450,000.
Our field is a core asset. Organizations sell off core assets only in near-liquidation situations. For example mining companies dont sell off their orebodies; auto manufacturers dont sell off their assembly lines.
The piece of property that might be under consideration is not beneficial as runway or any other conceivable use for the foreseeable future apart from farmland. It is not a safety concern. Furthermore, I can state from experience many members don’t even know it is our property. It will not be missed.
What would happen to the proceeds of a land sale? Do we have any confidence that the money, for which we have no immediate need, would be wisely invested? Would the money go to further pet projects that might not be in the best interests of all members? As one club member puts it, would it just burn holes in our pockets?
We do have current obligations and we know what the future obligations will be. It is up to the members whether they want to pay for those out of pocket by higher fees, letting things deteriorate or selling other assets like aircraft.
Land sales would preclude future development of our property, such as the construction of hangars, T hangars, accomodation of other clubs that might combine with YSA, or possible airpark development. Our field is worth more to us now and in the future than the lowest value of all potential uses: selling to a local farmer.
The land under consideration represents approximately 20% of the total leaving lots of opportunity for those kinds of considerations.
If we have future needs for urgent and justified capital projects, other routes to financing are preferable to land sales, such as borrowing from banks or members, rather than "selling the farm".
Our means to borrow as increased significantly as land values have risen to 12-25,000 dollars per acre depending on condition and location. We have taken advantage of that to date. However, borrowing does contribute to how we set fees. We can do more borrowing if we wish, but there is a tipping point.
Should the Board decide to proceed with a land sale, it should be put to the membership at large. I would suggest that two thirds majority should be needed for approval
Absolutely.
How do other clubs view land sales of their properties? I am prepared to conduct a survey of other Canadian gliding clubs for YSA if the Board is interested.
Most of the clubs around us operate with significantly less land and often with higher constraints from local development.
My interest in this issue is that we should pass on to future generations of Ontario glider pilots the excellent facilities and assets passed to us by earlier generations. We need to have a healthy, positive view of the future
I concur. The goal in my view is to make things better as a mind set and not go backward. Many of us will not be around to see the future generations. But I would like to think that the plans we make now will still have benefits for 20 or 30 years and York will continue be a strong operation.
york field.JPG
Kenneth Voort
Posts: 83
Joined: Mon May 24, 2021 8:15 am

Re: Selling the Farm

Post by Kenneth Voort »

Stan Martin wrote: Tue Oct 12, 2021 11:26 am
We don't need the money from such a sale due to any kind of present financial distress at YSA- this is in spite of over 12 months of the Covid pandemic and partial lock down. Personally I expect that membership numbers will increase after the pandemic, with a strengthening of our financial position
The subcommittee formed to investigate this issue of expected financial obligations. It has provided a report. The report demonstrates there will be financial challenges over the next 5 years that has potential liabilities of 3-450,000.

We do have current obligations and we know what the future obligations will be. It is up to the members whether they want to pay for those out of pocket by higher fees, letting things deteriorate or selling other assets like aircraft.
If those are our options, I submit that either a)membership is too low, or b)member fees are too low. If we're considering selling land to pay for future obligations, we should be sure that such a sale is not simply postponing us solving the real problem - that our expenses perhaps outweigh our income. Because if that's the case, we'll be looking at another sale in another couple of decades, and continuing down that path will eventually destroy YSA.
Stan Martin wrote: Tue Oct 12, 2021 11:26 am
Should the Board decide to proceed with a land sale, it should be put to the membership at large. I would suggest that two thirds majority should be needed for approval
Absolutely.
Agreed as well.
Stan Martin wrote: Tue Oct 12, 2021 11:26 am
My interest in this issue is that we should pass on to future generations of Ontario glider pilots the excellent facilities and assets passed to us by earlier generations. We need to have a healthy, positive view of the future
I concur. The goal in my view is to make things better as a mind set and not go backward. Many of us will not be around to see the future generations. But I would like to think that the plans we make now will still have benefits for 20 or 30 years and York will continue be a strong operation.
I'll be around to see the next generation, with any luck. What I don't want to see is a land sale delaying the inevitable and hiding a problem with insufficient income, which leads to yet another land sale, and then the cycle repeats. So I do feel the need to ask, what put us in the position of considering selling land to pay for these obligations? Was it poor long-term financial planning, a decline in membership, a rise in costs, a confluence of unforeseen factors, a steadfast determination to keep down membership fees, or something else? Some of these I can see as justification for a land sale. Others, not so much.

I would very much be willing to pay higher membership fees if our liabilities exceed our income, but I can't speak for everyone.

I'd very much like to keep the land. While I can't see any useful purpose for it today (other than farmland), that doesn't mean there will never be such a purpose. When considering questions like this, we need to be thinking on a 50 to 100 year horizon, not the next 10-20, in my opinoin.

[edit]
Something else to consider, I just realized. There is value in making sure it's farmland around us. We do have some thankfully rare runway excursions from time to time. Keeping the immediate environs to a nice, soft field is something we can currently control since we're renting it out. We lose control over that if we sell it.

Not that it's always that soft though. There was a cornfield off the end of 05 and a soybean field at the north end of 32/14 this year. But still - better that than a few buildings or a junkyard.
[/edit]
With grace and beauty, Strength and cunning She’ll stay aloft — until; Inevitably — she loses. And must glide earthward. And lie there helpless, Lovesick for the sky.
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