The proposed expansion of the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit will go to a public hearing.
The public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 1 at 6 p.m. at the Cowichan Performing Arts Theatre, but staff warned that it could be changed.
North Cowichan’s council gave the first two readings to the approximately $36-million phase-two project at a packed council meeting on Aug. 21 that was held in the ballroom at the Ramada Hotel to hold the large crowd that attended.
Council anticipated a big turnout for the meeting because the levels of noise emanating from the VIMC have led to complaints and lawsuits from a number of its neighbours from the beginning of its operations in 2016.
Mark Holland, a consulting planner for the VIMC, told council that many changes have been made to the original proposal for the second phase of the VIMC in order to deal with the sound issues.
He said these include restrictions on hours of operation and on operating on statutory holidays, the installation of berms, walls and sound fences to mitigate the sounds from the track, the installation of sound-monitoring stations in the surrounding neighbourhoods, and restrictions on the maximum permitted sound output from the facility.
“We’ll have strong penalties of $5,000 for each breach of the sound limit, and we’ll give a $25,000 bond to the municipality for that purpose,” Holland said.
Holland said the VIMC’s commitment to limiting noise is based on the CVRD’s noise control bylaw, which specifies a maximum standard for “continuous sound” of 60 decibels, measured at the point of reception.
The bylaw defines “continuous noise” to be any noise other than construction noise that continues for a period or periods of totalling three minutes or more in any 15 minute period.
The applicant is proposing a comparable standard, with some exceptions, with a maximum standard of 59 decibels.
“We’ve made a lot of changes to our original proposal to meet the noise concerns,” Holland said.
A staff report written by North Cowichan’s director of planning Rob Conway said the noise concerns are unlikely to be fully resolved through the zoning amendment process.
But Conway said the applicant’s commitments would establish an enforceable baseline standard for noise levels and would provide the public with greater certainty over the level of noise to be expected, and some recourse should the agreed upon standard be exceeded.
“The baseline standard is consistent with levels permitted by the CVRD under its noise regulation bylaw applicable to the Sahtlam area,” Conway said.
The VIMC opened in June, 2016, on the Cowichan Valley Highway near Mount Prevost.
The expansion is proposed north of the existing 18.74-hectare site where the motor vehicle circuit and clubhouse are currently situated.
Phase-two of the facility on a 42.47 hectare site is proposed to include a new five-kilometre paved motor vehicle circuit, an off-road motor vehicle circuit, a new clubhouse and buildings for maintaining, repairing and storing motor vehicles.
Isabelle Rimmer, president of the Sahtlam Neighbourhood Association, said she has concerns with the VIMC’s proposal to only allow the sound to exceed 59 decibels for three out of every 15 minutes.
“That means that for three minutes out of 15, they can make as much noise as they want,” she said.
“Also, aside from the plans for berms, walls and fences to help mitigate the noise, there are no other concrete plans and they don’t even know if that will work. Our feeling is that if council took an objective look at the expansion proposal, they would see that allowing it to go ahead would be a bad idea.”
Supporters of the expansion, including many members of the local business community, were at the meeting in large numbers wearing yellow carnations.
Matt Delange, general manager of Surespan Structures that neighbours the VIMC, said the large construction company has operated from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. each work day for years and has never had a noise complaint.
He said he’s hoping that much of the work to construct phase two will go to Surespan.
“We’re facing challenges at Surespan in that skilled labour is hard to come by, and we want to keep our workers here so this project will help support that,” Delange said.