It has been almost two weeks since the Sahtlam Neighbourhood Association (SNA) presented its report, "Approved as a Permitted Use", to North Cowichan (NC) Committee of the Whole. At that time, we presented clear evidence that the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit (VIMC) is operating in violation of North Cowichan Zoning Bylaw 2950. We further demonstrated that NC approved VIMC on the basis of erroneous interpretations of North Cowichan Zoning Bylaw 2950 and, by so doing, promoted the sale and development of a property that was owned by NC. As a result, our community is suffering from excessive and intrusive noise from VIMC, whose voluntary noise limits are grossly inadequate.
At the conclusion of our report we asked two questions:
(1) Will NC enforce North Cowichan Zoning Bylaw 2950 with respect to the existing VIMC facility?
(2) Will NC deny the pending development permit application (a retroactive application for a facility that was built illegally) based on the fact that it is not a permitted use under North Cowichan Zoning Bylaw 2950?
Mayor Lefebure informed the SNA that no response will be given pending "legal considerations" and a presentation by VIMC to North Cowichan Committee of the Whole on April 13, 2017 at 7 pm. While we recognize the right of VIMC to present to council, nothing can change the wording of the zoning bylaw, which expressly restricts permitted uses to the zones in which they are authorized to take place.
Unfortunately for NC, they sold the property with assurances that the zoning was appropriate, and that puts Mayor and Council between a rock and a hard place. If they admit that staff erred when they gave such assurances, it will be the first step towards reconciliation with the voters and taxpayers who are suffering from the consequences of those errors. However, such an admission will also likely result in VIMC exercising their legal right to compensation. On the other hand, stubbornly adhering to their misinterpretations of the zoning bylaw may smooth things over with VIMC in the short term (because eventually NC will be proven wrong, and VIMC will seek its compensation anyway), but it will alienate North Cowichan voters, who expect their elected representatives to uphold the bylaws of NC, even when it is uncomfortable to do so.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. VIMC is currently putting together a development permit application for their off-road track, which may be submitted any day (if not already). Given NC has been advised that approval of any such permit would be in contravention of their own bylaws, one wonders why VIMC has not been told to stop wasting money on a permit application that should be rejected.
One final note: while the SNA is still awaiting an official response from NC, a staff person recently communicated the following position to a private resident:
"Use of the track falls within permitted uses of our Zoning Bylaw. Given that the test track does not contravene any Municipal bylaws, including the Zoning Bylaw, there is no bylaw enforcement planned for the track."
Which leaves us to wonder if the decision has already been made internally. If so, then it would appear that Mayor and Council are uniting with staff in a defensive posture that clearly demonstrates where residents fall on the NC priority scale: somewhere below the need to coverup their mistakes.
Here's hoping it was merely a clerk speaking out of turn, and that Mayor and Council will do the right thing, which is to act on behalf of the people of this community and direct staff to enforce the bylaw.