Martina Joe speaks to North Cowichan’s council at its meeting in Nov. 6 on the decision to hold a second public hearing on the expansion plans at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

North Cowichan will hold a second public hearing on VIMC expansion plans

Council also rescinds decision to deny development permit until after public hearing

North Cowichan will hold a second public hearing on the controversial expansion plans at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit.

Council voted unanimously at its meeting on Nov. 6 to rescind its decision made after the two-day public hearing early last month to deny the rezoning request. The application will now go to a second public hearing to gather more public input before council again decides on whether to accept or reject it. The hearing is scheduled for Dec. 9, 6 p.m., at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre.

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

Council also decided to defer the municipality’s decision to not issue a development permit for the VIMC’s phase two, and the decision will be revisited after the public hearing.

Mayor Al Siebring and Coun. Tek Manhas were the only council members to vote for the rezoning to proceed after the public hearing last month.

Siebring told the large audience that gathered for the decision that while the information that council received from the public at the first public hearing was completely valid, it was not complete.

He said the municipality has been involved with legal proceedings over the issue, and the legal advice given to council was, and remains, covered under solicitor-client privilege and, as such, couldn’t be released to the public.

“But when we went into the first round of public hearings last month, the public was providing their input based on the information that North Cowichan was at liberty to provide and, to be clear, that was incomplete information,” Siebring said.

“The public didn’t know explicitly about the legal risks involved in the decision. But on Oct. 15, we received correspondence from Lorenzo Oss-Ketch, a lawyer for the VIMC, demanding that a development permit be issued for phase two on the basis that one had been issued for phase one, and outlining potential legal action if the development permit is not issued.”

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

Siebring said the new information outlining North Cowichan’s liability was further augmented by another letter from the VIMC lawyer which stated the full scope of the potential lawsuit could be in the range of $60-million.

He said there is also a new offer from the VIMC to gift 250 acres of its lands to Cowichan Tribes, which is also new information.

Siebring pointed out that council’s vote to reconsider its decision to deny rezoning after the first public hearing doesn’t mean any member of council is being forced to change their vote.

“It simply means we’re going to vote on it again,” he said.

“And I acknowledge the vote could very well be the same as it was the last time.”

Coun. Christopher Justice said he feels “sick” that council will revisit the issue, but to be fair and according to procedure, council can’t reconsider its decision without holding another public hearing first.

Manhas said council owes it to the residents, who could face a large tax increase due to the legal liability, to hold another public hearing with all the information presented.

Coun. Rosalie Sawrie also she doesn’t feel good about revisiting the issue, but the public should be allowed to comment on the new information.

Coun. Kate Marsh said it’s not an “easy thing” for council to rescind its earlier decision on the rezoning and have another public hearing, but council has a responsibility with the new information.

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

Council allowed several speakers at the council meeting to address the issue, and all spoke against the expansion plans at the VIMC moving forward.

Jack McNeil said he spent 38 years dealing with bullies.

“I want you to know that you have the overwhelming support of the community,” he said.

“We urge you to stay the course and not bow to bully tactics.”

Jared Williams, a member of Cowichan Tribes, also urged council not to change their minds on the VIMC expansion.

“Please don’t do this,” he said. “You already said no. This is our Garden of Eden and we don’t want to see it changed.”

Isabel Rimmer, president of the Sahtlam Residents Association, thanked council for its work on the issue.

She said the SRA was expecting the other shoe to drop, but the manner in which it was dropped was unexpected.

“We’d like to see North Cowichan’s taxpayers come to the public hearing and reassure our council and show them that we don’t want to see them bullied,” Rimmer said.

“We feel that council has heard what the Cowichan Tribes community have said and hope they take it into consideration when making their decision. The benefit of this is if council stands by its original decision, it would close the door on these expansion plans for good.”

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

Just Posted

Chemainus & District Baseball Association season on hold due to COVID-19

Shouts of Play Ball! would normally have started being heard next week

Province restricts open burning across much of the Cowichan region

No new fires may be initiated in all high smoke sensitivity zones

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

COVID-19: Isolation exemptions to frontline workers a danger to patients, say Island Health employees

Staff exempt from self-isolation upon return from international travel according to Island Health

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

Long list of events disrupted by COVID-19 around the community

Challenging situation affecting fundraisers, entertainment, sports and more

Evening world update: U.S. restrictions extended 30 days; NY deaths near 1,000

Comprehensive world update, with the latest developments in the COVID-19 crisis

‘Nothing concrete’: Tenants, landlords lack details after B.C. unveils COVID-19 rental aid

Single mom in Golden says she’s already going to the food bank after being laid off

Canada will make sure masks sent by China meet quality standards: Trudeau

Chinese Embassy tweeted that China was sending 30,000 medical masks along with gowns, gloves and goggles

B.C. issues guidelines about distancing, reusable bags to grocery stores amid COVID-19

Hand sanitizer and markers to keep lines two metres are apart are needed, province says

No plans to call in military right now to enforce COVID-19 quarantine: Trudeau

Trudeau unveils $7.5M for Kids Help Phone, $9M for vulnerable seniors amid COVID-19

QUIZ: How much do you know about the Olympics?

Put your knowledge to the test with these 12 questions

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Most Read