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A Question of Trust: how VIMC broke the rules and then lied about it

The Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit (VIMC) is in hot water this week after the Sahtlam Neighbourhood Association (SNA) discovered that the private motorsports circuit has been using - and profiting from - an illegally constructed off-road course, after being expressly told by North Cowichan that such use was unauthorized. To make matters worse, when confronted with these accusations VIMC lied, claiming that they were not using the off-road course but instead were merely taking guests on a drive about the grounds. Since those statements were made, incontrovertible evidence has surfaced that VIMC has been using the course for months: a number of automobile companies have paid VIMC to host promotional events featuring the off-road track, and their videos are all over the Internet.

VIMC built the off-road track in early 2017 without any permits. After being advised by North Cowichan that permits were needed, they continued using the track, prompting Mayor Jon Lefebure himself to notify VIMC that any further use of the off-road track was unauthorized until permits had been issued.* This past week, the SNA received an anonymous tip that VIMC was operating their off-road track as part of an event for AMG Mercedes. Concerned citizens armed with zoom lenses filmed off-road activities from various locations near the VIMC property. Although viewers unfamiliar with the layout of the off-road course would not readily recognize what was being shown, the Municipality of North Cowichan immediately understood the implications of the evidence we presented to them. CAO Ted Swabey made himself available on the spot, and called VIMC to inform them of the complaint.

The SNA then published this information on our Facebook page, and received the following comment from VIMC:

Unfortunately for VIMC, the evidence is overwhelming, because their customers have been publishing videos of themselves using the course.

Example 1 posted October 25, 2017 (starts at 4:48):

Here's a screen shot of the post:

Another video clip was posted on Facebook on October 25, 2017. Here's the screen shot:

And another video, this one from October 23. Here's that screen shot:

And to show how long this has been going on, here's a video from back in August (off road shots at 0:32, 5:14,12:45, and 13:15):

With the screen shot:

It's clear from these videos (and several more just like them) that VIMC is not only using their off-road course - despite knowing that it is unauthorized - but they are allowing car companies to pay them for using the illegal off-road course. It's also clear from these videos that VIMC was lying when they said they were just taking guests on a tour of the property and "we would like to confirm that we are not operating the off-road track nor have we been".

What's so disturbing about this is that VIMC is currently in the process of developing a "public consultation strategy" as part of their rezoning application. They are required to hold public meetings to inform the community of their plans, and to seek approval for the planned development. In short, they are going to be asking us to trust trust that they will use the lands appropriately, follow the rules, and take care of the environment. How can we possibly trust a company who so blatantly disobeys the rules, not to mention direct instructions from the Mayor, and then lies about it when caught?

What's even more disturbing is the reckless disregard for our water and natural resources. Because no permits were sought prior to construction, the course was built without any environmental oversight. One major concern upon discovery of the off-road course was the "water feature" obstacle, a giant puddle through which vehicles drive. The overflow ditch appears to have been diverted right into Bings Creek, a fish-bearing stream that feeds into Somenos Lake. Without proper inspection and subsequent approval by North Cowichan, there is no way to know what sorts of pollutants are being directed into the surrounding watershed. VIMC's actions - their deliberate flaunting of the rules and their lies about it - send a strong message to our community about just how little they care for our residents, the lands they want to develop, or for playing by the rules.

The SNA has discussed this situation with CAO Ted Swabey and Mayor Lefebure, both of whom who graciously made time to speak with us on very short notice. We were told that the matter would go before staff, and possibly council, to determine the appropriate response and any punitive actions that may be taken by the municipality. Although the usual course of action would be to administer tickets, given the multiple infractions and deliberate intention to hide their actions from the municipality and the public, the SNA is looking forward to a strong message from North Cowichan that such behaviour will not be tolerated.

* you can watch the discussion and motion passed by council for Mayor Lefebure to instruct VIMC not to use the off-road track by viewing the regular council meeting of March 15, 2017 or reading the minutes (both the video and the minutes can be accessed here)

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