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Noisy Long Weekend brings Swift Response from Municipal Staff

As was the case last year, the recent Easter long weekend was marred in Sahtlam by track noise from the Vancouver Island Motorsports Circuit (VIMC). Tempers in the community flared as families ventured outdoors to watch their children hunt for Easter eggs to the tune of screeching tires and shifting gears. The Municipality of North Cowichan was flooded with complaints, emails, and phone calls from residents as far away as Maple Bay. This prompted CAO Ted Swabey to place a call to VIMC officials over the weekend, a gesture that was much appreciated by residents.

Due to the flurry of complaints, an update from staff was added to the next council meeting agenda for Wednesday, April 4. SNA director Isabel Rimmer spoke during the public input session, with a passionate plea to stop this kind of disruptive noise before a third summer is spoiled. Dr. Rimmer pointed out that it had been almost 2 years since the track opened, and residents were still dealing with intrusive noise. In 2017, every long weekend except Christmas and the New Year was marred by excessive track noise. That same pattern seems poised to be set again for 2018, and the community is understandably frustrated.

Mr. Swabey told council that he was "waiting for a report that I can share with council and the public from the track operator of what went wrong and how we can correct that". Later, Councillor Maeve Maguire referenced claims by VIMC that they had inadvertently exceeded their self-imposed noise limits that weekend. Sahtlam residents in the audience were dismayed to hear this matter being presented as some kind of anomaly. In fact, disruptively loud track noise, such as that experienced over the long weekend, happens with distressing regularity. The flurry of complaints was prompted by sheer frustration rather than an unusually loud weekend. As residents ventured out into the fine weather and looked headlong into another summer filled with racetrack noise, that frustration reached a tipping point.

Mr. Swabey told council about the measures VIMC is taking to try and address the noise issue. There was talk of special mufflers, removing certain vehicles, and various expert noise reports that have been commissioned. In our opinion, this is rather like responding to an overflowing bathtub by measuring the depth of water on the bathroom floor: it would be more effective to simply turn down the faucet. VIMC has been operating with self-imposed noise limits since late 2016: those limits are clearly set too high, as evidenced by the number and frequency of complaints received by the municipality on a regular basis. The fastest and simplest solution is for VIMC to simply lower their noise limits, at least until they can install proper noise mitigation.

By the end of the council meeting, those in attendance from the Sahtlam neighbourhood were frustrated and angry. Nothing of any substance had been proposed, and the impression was given that this issue will drag on along with the rezoning application, which council heard was unlikely to appear before them until after the municipal election in October. However, we are pleased to report that Mr. Swabey reached out to the SNA immediately after the council meeting. Meetings were arranged, talks have begun, and we are cautiously optimistic. With new players in the game, such as Mr. Swabey and brand-new Director of Planning Kyle Young, the municipality definitely appears to be listening.

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