Before construction, shown here, was started on phase one of the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit, assurances were sought and given that zoning of the facility wouldn’t be a problem. (Citizen file)

VIMC says North Cowichan backed out of “assurances”

Correspondence indicates promises were made

Correspondence between the Municipality of North Cowichan and the Vancouver Island Motor Circuit lays out VIMC’s case if it sues the municipality.

As early as a letter from Dave Devana, North Cowichan’s former CAO, dated Nov. 12, 2013, the municipality assured VIMC that zoning of the property allowed for the proposed facility.

“While not specifically listed as permitted use under the Zoning Bylaw 2950, it is the Municipality’s position that the proposed ‘Recreational Testing Facility’ would be considered a permitted use under the definitions of ‘Recreational Facility’ (C8) and ‘Industrial Use’ (I2) so this use is permitted on any portion of the subject property,” Devana wrote.

In a later letter to the municipality from the VMIC’s Peter Trzewik, dated Nov. 4, 2015, Trzewik noted that the property is split zoned, and the facility’s design would have the driving track extending across both the area zoned commercial/recreational and the area zoned industrial.

Trzewik said the VIMC was seeking “further comfort” that the activities proposed for the vehicle testing and driver training facilities were compliant with local zoning.

RELATED STORY: $50M LIABILITY WORRY HAS NORTH COWICHAN MAYOR ASKING FOR MOTORSPORT DO-OVER

Trzewik listed eight proposed uses for the property, including driving programs of up to 100 cars a day in different areas of the facility, vehicles driving the track with the goal to achieve and improve “fast-lap” times, and working on cars to improve their lap times.

Devana replied that North Cowichan confirmed that the eight activities the VIMC were proposing at the site are “consistent with a vehicle testing facility” and are permitted in both zones.

With assurances given by North Cowichan, the VIMC spent more than $37 million to engineer and build phase one of the project, which included the motor vehicle circuit and a clubhouse, on an 18.74-hectare site.

The VIMC then applied for rezoning for the approximately $37-million phase two of the project on an adjacent 42.47 hectare site, which would 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. The reason cited for the rezoning request, which was not strictly necessary given previous assurances that the uses were compliant with the existing zoning, instead of a simple application for a development permit, was that a rezoning would put to bed once and for all any question of the permitted land use.

But following two marathon nights of public hearing last month, North Cowichan’s council decided to deny the rezoning application for phase two from the VIMC due to community concerns about noise, environmental impacts, and First Nations objections.

Subsequently, North Cowichan’s director of planning and development Rob Conway denied a development permit for phase two, saying it was inconsistent with the zoning.

RELATED STORY: FRACTIOUS TWO-DAY HEARING ENDS WITH A NO FOR COWICHAN MOTORSPORT EXPANSION

However, North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring has since announced that he is 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 has opened the municipality up to the possibility of a $50 million liability.

The liability was spelled out in correspondence North Cowichan received from the VIMC’s lawyers, Hutchison Oss-Cech Marlatt Barristers & Solicitors, soon after the rezoning application was rejected.

It stated that when the VIMC bought the property from the municipality in 2016, it was based on the written assurances from North Cowichan, without any disclaimers, that the zoning for the intended uses “was appropriate”.

“My client relied on those assurances in purchasing the property,” the law firm said.

“Furthermore, based on these assurances, my client applied for and received a development permit and building permits. It then invested over $37 million to construct phase one of the facility. It did so fully intending and expecting to build phase two on the adjacent lands.”

The letter from the law firm said that in 2017, North Cowichan asked the VIMC to apply to rezone the properties under one comprehensive bylaw in the belief that the rezoning would provide greater clarity and establish operating rules for the circuit to provide North Cowichan and the public certainty in that regard.

RELATED STORY: NOISE REPORTS ON COWICHAN MOTORSPORT CIRCUIT TAKE AIM AT EACH OTHER

“Given its good relationship with North Cowichan and most of the community, my client, in good faith, agreed,” the law firm said.

“My client has issued contracts, booked clients and has mobilized equipment to the site to commence construction of phase two based on the issuance of a development permit.”

The letter said that if a development permit is refused or some other action be taken to interfere with VIMC’s lawful rights to establish and operate its business, the VIMC will “pursue all legal remedies available”.

“In the circumstances, having invested so much time and money in reliance on the municipality’s assurances and conduct to date, it will be left with no other choice,” the letter concluded.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

Isles looking for playoff upset over Oceanside

The Kerry Park Islanders are looking to last year’s Cowichan Valley Capitals… Continue reading

Check out Cowichan’s heritage sites for Heritage Week

This year’s theme is “Bringing the Past into the Future”

Cowichan athletes medal in archery, curling and judo at BC Winter Games

Duncan Archer Liam Whitworth brought home two medals from the 2020 BC… Continue reading

Get ready to enjoy the ride and laugh along with Brentwood’s ‘Spamalot’

Spamalot is a twisted musical take on the tales of King Arthur.

Coming up in Cowichan: Learn about the Koksilah River and watershed

Speaker series to talk Koksilah River The next presentation in the Cowichan… Continue reading

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Two B.C. men plead guilty to bus-terminal assault of man with autism in Ontario

Parmvir Chahil and Jaspaul Uppal due to be sentenced in June for aggravated assault

Most Read