North Cowichan wants work at an off-road track at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit stopped until all the relevant development permits are in place.
Council decided at its meeting on March 15 to send a letter to the GAIN Dealer Group, which owns the racetrack, and ask that all work on lands outside of permitted areas be stopped until the relevant permits have been considered by the municipality.
Council also decided to invite members of the Sahtlam Neighbourhood Association, the GAIN Dealer Group and other stakeholders to a meeting of North Cowichan’s committee of the whole to discuss the issues around the racetrack and determine if compromises and solutions can be found.
The decisions were made after members of the SNA spoke to council at the meeting about the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit’s recent work to transform an old logging road adjacent to the racetrack into an 800-metre off-road track without having the required development permits in place from North Cowichan.
SNA director Mariah Wallener said association members were “surprised and frustrated” when they learned that phase two of the project had begun without acquiring proper development permits from North Cowichan, and before the neighbours’ noise concerns were adequately dealt with.
But Peter Trzewik, CEO of the GAIN Dealer Group, said work stopped on the off-road track as soon as complaints were received and no further work will continue until the proper permits have been attained.
He said representatives from the GAIN Dealer Group will attend any meeting organized by council if they are asked.
“I don’t think there is a level of understanding in the public of phase two and what is happening on site right now,” Trzewik said.
“We just reactivated an old logging road into an off-road track that will likely only be used once every two to four weeks. We don’t want a fight with anyone and we didn’t see a problem, but [North Cowichan] has told us the proper permits must be in place first, so we’ll do that before we proceed any further.”
The racetrack itself is a permitted use at the site, situated on 50 acres on a hillside facing Highway 18 to Lake Cowichan, but members of the SNA have maintained that the amount of noise from the race track, which opened last June, is far above what they were told it would be.
The SNA, GAIN Dealer Group and North Cowichan have agreed to monitor the noise from the track and work is ongoing to achieve a compromise that would be acceptable to all concerned.
But the recent work on the off-road track has raised the ire of the SNA again as the association claims the project has proceeded without development permits or soil-deposition permits and has had no riparian assessments done, despite being home to two fish bearing creeks that are part of the Somenos Lake watershed.
But Trzewik said the GAIN Dealer Group said an environmentalist is an integral part of the team and has provided advice on how to properly deal with these issues.
“We don’t want to create harm and we’re not looking for a fight with the neighbours,” he said.
“As for the noise issues, we’ve had a noise study done already and it shows the noise from the track falls far below the allowable noise levels in Victoria and the Cowichan Valley Regional District [North Cowichan currently has no noise policy]. This land was sold as industrial land, so the noise levels could have been much higher from another industrial operation here.”