First Nations drummers make their presence known in the lobby of the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre in advance of a public hearing on a proposed rezoning of property owned by the Cowichan Motorsport Circuit. Cowichan Tribes has been opposed to expansion plans at the site. (Warren Goulding/Citizen)

First Nations drummers make their presence known in the lobby of the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre in advance of a public hearing on a proposed rezoning of property owned by the Cowichan Motorsport Circuit. Cowichan Tribes has been opposed to expansion plans at the site. (Warren Goulding/Citizen)

N. Cowichan rejects Motorsport rezoning for a second time

The surprise of the night came when Siebring switched to the no side

After almost six hours of input from the public, North Cowichan councillors once again rejected Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit’s bid to expand its facility.

The second round of hearings into the proposed rezoning application was necessitated after Mayor Al Siebring determined additional information had come forward after the initial hearing and rejection of the expansion plan in early October.

Siebring announced that he was exercising his power to ask council to walk back their decision not to approve the rezoning and have council reconsider its vote, revealing that turning down the rezoning had opened the municipality up to a possible $60-million liability.

Monday night’s hearing at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre drew a large crowd and more than 90 speakers expressed their opinion on the issue, with about 80 per cent opposed.

Just after midnight, the six councillors and Siebring voted 6-1 to defeat the rezoning bylaw.

The surprise of the night came when Siebring switched to the no side after voting for the expansion at the earlier meeting. Only Coun. Tek Manhas supported the expansion bylaw.

“I have to acknowledge what I heard here to night,” Siebring said, stating that he had prepared two set of comments and went into the meeting with an open mind.

“The clear majority are saying take the risk,” Siebring added, in reference to the possibility of a huge lawsuit against the municipality.

Several speakers urged council to fight the lawsuit and others called the possible action by VIMC “a bluff” and “a bullying tactic.”

Siebring’s turnabout drew loud applause from the audience, many of whom had been loudly critical of the mayor’s stance and comments throughout the hearing.

The presence of First Nations elders and Cowichan Tribes members who stressed the importance of the property near Mt. Prevost and expressed concerns about the environment clearly made an impact on council, including Siebring who said the words of one speaker, Shawn Johnny, hit home for him.

“I’m really disappointed in the friction this is causing our community,” Johnny said, adding one person told him, “you people think you own everything” as he entered the hall.

“That was the thing that impacted me the most,” Siebring said just before he announced his no vote.

The five councillors who voted against the expansion said they were voting against the expansion but not acting to shut down the existing operations at the track, known as phase one.

“This is not about shutting down phase one,” Coun. Chris Justice said.

Coun. Rob Douglas agreed.

“My concerns about wildlife and the Somenos watershed still stand and there was significant opposition from Cowichan Tribes,” Douglas said.

“But this is not about shutting down phase one.”

Late last week, a lawyer representing Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit told the municipality his client would not be attending the public hearing.

In a letter to the Municipality of North Cowichan Sean Hern, a partner in the law firm that represents the VIMC, said the Circuit has chosen instead to proceed “in accordance with its legal and equitable rights” on the issue.

He said VIMC made that decision after council decided on Dec. 4 not to issue a development permit for the expansion.

Before adjourning at 1 a.m., council voted to rescind second reading of the controversial expansion bylaw and to amend the bylaw to apply only to phase one (the existing facility) and bring it back for third reading in January.

Siebring says that legal step will provide clarity on the permitted use for the existing track.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Lake Cowichan Legion received federal funding in December, 2020 to help the organization weather the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted)
Lake Cowichan Legion receives federal COVID-19 assistance funding

Can be used for expenses such as insurance, utilities, rent or mortgages, property taxes, and wages.

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Do you know someone who should not be driving?

We are currently living about 10 years longer than our ability to drive safely.

Chris Wilkinson
Chris Wilkinson column: Time to slow down to speed up

In a society where we learn (are forced?) to multitask like crazy

A COVID-19 exposure has been reported at Shawnigan Lake School. (Citizen file photo)
UPDATED: Island Health reports COVID-19 exposure at Shawnigan Lake School

Shawnigan Lake School has been added to the list of schools in… Continue reading

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Most Read