Yesterday, SNA directors Isabel Rimmer and Mariah Wallener appeared before council to discuss the new off-road track at Vancouver Island Motorsports Circuit (VIMC), which was recently constructed without the necessary permits and environmental assessments.
The new track represents an expansion of the original facility, by adding an "off-road experience" for private members and other users of the motorsports club. But while the original development sits on a parcel of land that is split-zoned (i.e., it contains two distinct zones), the new off-road track sits on a parcel of land that is zoned I2 only. The SNA asserts that the off-road track is not a permitted use, since the split-zoning that was necessary to approve the initial facility is lacking in this case.
Accordingly, we made two requests: (1) that council hold off on approving any development permits on that parcel - including those for the off-road track - until issues around zoning can be resolved, and (2) that the SNA meet with Mayor and council to further discuss our issues with VIMC.
With respect to our first ask, staff confirmed that there was no way to delay the process of approving a development permit, providing that all bylaws and regulations were satisfied. According to Scott Mack, Director of Development Services, staff was told that the off-road track was for "industrial testing". However, several council members questioned this claim, given that VIMC is clearly advertising itself as a private motorsports club, with exclusive membership packages and tourism experiences. Recreational facilities are not a permitted use under I2 zoning bylaws. This discussion raised the possibility that the development permit application could be denied on the grounds that the off-road track is not a permitted use on that parcel.
After much discussion around zoning issues, Councillor Rob Douglas suggested that the zoning for I2 be clarified in such a way as to trigger a rezoning application and thereby allow for public input as well as requirements for noise mitigation studies, specified hours of operation, etc. Although both Councillor Douglas and Councillor Joyce Behnsen suggested making a motion to that effect, Mayor Lefebure recommended that they take time to consider the matter further. Fair enough; but as Councillor Behnsen pointed out, they are expecting a development permit application for the off-road track any time now.
The implications of this rezoning discussion for the pending development permit application could be significant. We believe that the application should not be approved before a decision is reached on how to proceed with the zoning. However, staff were unable to confirm the impact of that discussion on the permit approval process, although they promised to get back to us in writing with their findings in that regard.
As for our second ask, we are pleased to announce that it was granted. Council unanimously passed a motion that the SNA be invited to appear as a delegation before a Committee of the Whole. We are excited about the opportunity to have an in-depth discussion with staff and council, and feel confident that all parties will benefit from this exchange of information.
Several other important discussions took place around zoning, the history of the facility, and other matters pertaining to VIMC. And although council was unable to grant our first request, they did pass a related motion that met with much approval from the SNA and our supporters: that Mayor Lefebure direct VIMC to stop using their off-road facility until the proper permits have been issued.
The SNA considers the motions passed yesterday to be significant positive steps in the right direction. We are extremely grateful for the time and energy that council devoted to this topic, and we will continue to work closely with them to resolve these important community issues.