Editorial: $50 million bill constitutes new information

Members of the public should have been given this information

We agree with North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring that the rezoning of the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit needs a reconsideration, with the revelation that it could end up costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

Like it or not, VIMC was assured they could go ahead and build their facility on the industrially-zoned property. They did not actually need to apply for rezoning to go forward with phase two of their plan, they needed only a development permit. The rezoning was an attempt to put the zoning question to bed once and for all.

Whether assurances should have been given in the first place is a moot point now; whether North Cowichan is liable should they try to reverse course, as they did with the rezoning denial, is what is at issue. It will likely be very expensive to even find out, should council choose to stick to their choice.

Members of the public should have been given this information, with the numbers, in a straightforward manner before the public hearing and vote. Siebring is right to place that information before the electorate now and we hope council will concur and move the process back to the public hearing stage.

Remember, this doesn’t obligate council to change their vote. What it does do is give the public the chance to form an opinion and voice it with this very important piece of information in mind.

While the monetary considerations (a possible $50 million liability) don’t automatically trump the noise, environmental and First Nations concerns, they certainly need to be considered alongside them.

We’re surprised that this information wasn’t presented in concrete terms before the previous public hearing, and the question of why that is needs to be answered by mayor and council. Perhaps they didn’t have all of the relevant information at the time, but if that’s the case, it’s all the more reason to give the decision a second look. A possible $50 million bill definitely wasn’t something the public knew about.

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