We've had many comments and questions from the public since announcing the filing of our lawsuit against Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit. Here are answers to some of the most common questions:
What is this lawsuit about?
There are two main components : Municipal Zoning Bylaws (permitted use) and Provincial Nuisance Laws (noise)
Approximately 2/3 of the land on which the track sits is zoned I-2, Heavy Industrial. The other 1/3 is zoned C-8, Commercial Rural Recreational. The latter allows for a race track, but the former does not.
North Cowichan Zoning Bylaw 2950 states that activities are restricted to the zones in which they are permitted.
This means that industrial uses can only take place in the I-2 zone, and racing or recreational uses can only take place in the C-8 zone: The track spans both zones.
The SNA takes the position that VIMC is operating a race track, and that use of the entire track is illegal.
The Municipality of North Cowichan has been named in the civil suit for failing to enforce the zoning bylaw.
We are asking the court to rule on whether VIMC is operating in violation of the zoning bylaw.
Any activities on VIMC property that the court finds to be in contravention of the zoning bylaw will be deemed illegal and VIMC will be required to stop using their facilities for those activities until the zoning can be changed.
Provincial nuisance law prohibits anyone from "substantial and unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of property".
The SNA is claiming that VIMC is creating a private nuisance by causing substantial and unreasonable noise that is affecting residents' use and enjoyment of their private properties.
Provincial nuisance law trumps municipal bylaws, so whether VIMC is compliant with local noise bylaws is irrelevant in the determination of nuisance.
Didn't the Municipality of North Cowichan approve the development of VIMC?
The Municipality sold the land to VIMC for $1 million, and as part of that sale they were required to state in writing that the zoning was appropriate.
The SNA claims that the Municipality erred in its interpretation of the zoning bylaws when it gave that opinion.
The Municipality stood by its interpretation of the bylaws until the SNA presented arguments against that interpretation to the North Cowichan Committee of the Whole on March 23, 2017.*
Since that time the Municipality has refused to comment publicly on the legality of the zoning.
If the Municipality decides the zoning is not appropriate, it is likely that VIMC will pursue legal action against them for misrepresenting the property at the time of purchase.
This may explain, at least in part, why the Municipality has failed to act against VIMC.
Why did you decide to take legal action?
Residents began complaining to VIMC about the noise soon after they opened in April 2016, and the situation has not changed since that time.
Residents began complaining to the Municipality of North Cowichan in August 2016, and the situation has not changed since that time.
The latest suggestion from VIMC and the Municipality is to carry out noise modelling and sound studies as a first step towards designing noise mitigation solutions, a process that would take several months, with no guaranteed outcome.
At the end of that process, a maximum noise limit would still need to be established, agreed-upon by all parties, and enforced through some as-yet-unknown mechanism.
VIMC is unwilling to lower their noise levels while this process is ongoing, and instead plans to further develop their neighbouring properties.
The SNA believes that legal action will yield the best outcomes for the community.
What do you have against race tracks or motorsports enthusiasts?
We are not against motorsports; some of our residents are car enthusiasts, former race car drivers, and some belong to local car clubs.
Our Notice of Civil Claim is a petition to the court to rule on whether VIMC is violating municipal or provincial laws.
If laws are being broken, then appropriate measures should be taken.
Don't you live next to a highway/industrial area?
Although it may come as a surprise to people who don't spend time in our community, noise from Highway 18 and Stoneridge Sand and Gravel (the only industrial operation in the Sahtlam area) is minimal.
Ambient noise in the Sahtlam area is low, consistent with the rural residential nature of the community.
Noise from the race track routinely and significantly exceeds ambient noise levels.
To hear the track noise yourself, please visit our YouTube channel.
* To download a copy of the report that was presented that day, please click here. To view the presentation please visit the North Cowichan Council Live Archives and select "View Meeting" for "Committee of the Whole - 03-23-2017".
To download a copy of our Notice of Civil Claim, please click here.
To download a copy of our Press Release, please click here.