Operators of the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit have requested establishment of a working group with the District of North Cowichan and the Sahtlam Neighbourhood Association, with the goal of establishing a co-ordinated ‘noise mitigation strategy’ relating to the test track. (Photo contributed)

Vancouver Island Motorsports Circuit seeks to establish working group on noise strategy

North Cowichan, Sahtlam neighbours, GAIN Group would be stakeholders

Operators of the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit are looking forward to working with residents of the Sahtlam neighbourhood, as well as the District of North Cowichan, on a sound mitigation policy for the test track.

In VIMC’s presentation at a special meeting of the District of North Cowichan committee of the whole last week, a request was made to mayor Jon Lefebure and council to establish a working group between the three parties. “In addition,” said Toby Seward, a consultant for track builder SupErb Construction and one of three speakers on the evening, “we propose that we retain a facilitator and also to bring in design experts selected by the working group to assist in the process.”

The move is the latest by the facility’s owner, Victoria-based GAIN Dealer Group, to address concerns voiced by area residents over track-related noise levels.

The company created a noise policy last fall that sets out maximum decibel levels for vehicles using the track, as well as clarifying hours of operation, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It also lays out where sound measuring equipment would be placed at the track, based on recommendations from Wakefield Acoustics, the company retained last summer to do a noise compliance study for the facility.

That study detailed readings from monitoring equipment placed at the track, on the edge of Highway 18, and at two residences in the neighbourhood. It concluded that while track-related noise was audible at the two homes and “may cause annoyance to some individuals,” that other noise sources dominated the environments at both.

It also stated that track-related noise levels did not approach or exceed the noise level limits set out in Cowichan Valley Regional District Bylaw 3723. As North Cowichan does not have decibel limits in place under its general noise bylaw — that regulation is “nuisance-based” — the more stringent Bylaw 3723 was used for comparison purposes.

Following last Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting, Isabel Rimmer, president of the Sahtlam Neighbourhood Association, indicated that further measurement and monitoring of track-related sound in the neighbourhood will be one of the key factors moving forward.

Noise study co-author Clair Wakefield, whose company has completed community noise assessments for such high-profile projects as the third runway at Vancouver International Airport, an arterial road noise study for the City of Vancouver, and Hong Kong Disneyland, stood behind the VIMC study results in a separate interview with Black Press.

“Part of a noise study [implies that] the source is operating as it typically would,” he said, adding that the measurement day during track operations was “neutral,” with little to no wind. Comparing data from the four measurement sites, he said, they found that logging trucks on Highway 18, and helicopter traffic were the most significant and prolonged noise sources.

Rimmer told Black Press that residents don’t have any issues with highway traffic and other noise sources. Wakefield noted that in his experience, when a “noticeable” and “new” noise source enters a residential environment, it can lead people to voice concerns.

Of the formation of the working group and the terms of reference, Seward suggested at the meeting that each of the three stakeholders nominate two members, who would agree on a facilitator and interview design experts to guide the technical aspects.

“It’s not going to be an easy process, and there’s certainly a cost associated with it, but we think that’s the only way to work together as a community. And we certainly recognize that Sahtlam doesn’t feel they’ve been engaged as much as they should have been … it’s our goal that council would take our request and proceed with this option as soon as possible.”

Added Rimmer: “We’ve always said that we want a triple-win situation here. There really should be no reason that they can’t operate a business and we can’t live our lives and we’ve always wanted that.”

No timeline for the formation of the working group has yet been set out.

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