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VIMC Open House Raises Concerns about Noise Mitigation Plans

The Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit (VIMC) recently held a public Open House to present a new design for their proposed "Phase 2" expansion. Various consultants were there to answer questions about the impact of the proposed racetrack expansion, including Clare Wakefield, an acoustical consultant from RWDI Consulting and author of a report on proposed noise mitigation solutions for VIMC. Three directors from the Sahtlam Neighbourhood Association attended the Open House and spoke with Mr. Wakefield about noise mitigation plans for the expanded facility. It became clear that the noise barrier designs being presented to the public at the Open House were strictly theoretical, and that much validation work had to be done before they could be deemed an effective solution.

The aforementioned RWDI report, titled "Potential Noise Mitigation Measures", only discusses solutions for the existing track, aka: "Phase 1". As shown in the image below, the report calls for a sound barrier to be built along the southern boundary of the track on either side of the clubhouse for a total length of 450 metres (red line, below). The barrier would have to be approximately 15 feet tall at the eastern end and up to 25 feet tall along the western side of the track. In addition, four 15-foot-high earth berms (green lines, below), perhaps mounted with sound walls, are suggested for higher elevations.

As confirmed by Mr. Wakefield at the Open House, the RWDI report is just a suggestion for potential mitigation measures and has not been formally adopted by VIMC. In addition, Mr. Wakefield admitted that the location and size of the suggested noise barriers were based on "line of sight" and other factors, but did not include information from a previous Phase 1 noise modelling study commissioned by VIMC. Confusingly, the large signboards on display at the Open House did not mirror the design proposed in the RWDI report for Phase 1 noise mitigation, making it unclear as to how closely VIMC plans to follow the recommendations.

In regard to the proposed track expansion, or "Phase 2", Mr. Wakefield was unable to say what information went into the design of the noise mitigation barriers (as shown on the signboard displays), other than to say that they, too, were "hypothetical" and would presumably be refined using an appropriate sound model.

Finally, Mr. Wakefield confirmed that his report did not consider the impact of track noise on residents living in the Hillcrest area, which lies to the northwest of the racetrack, or those living to the east. Previous noise modelling studies commissioned by VIMC include a point-of-reception in the Hillcrest area and show that track noise is over 20 dB* louder than highway noise, making this neighbourhood one of the worst affected. Three points-of-reception to the east of VIMC also showed differences between highway noise and track noise equal to or greater than 10 dB. And yet the sound barriers shown in the figure above do not include protection for these residents.

Approximately 2 km to the southeast of VIMC lies a suburban residential neighbourhood that includes Tansor Elementary school. Given the long distances over which track noise propagates (as confirmed by VIMC's own noise modelling studies), the proposed track expansion could have a significant impact on this area, much of which lies within the Urban Containment Boundary and is therefore set for higher-density development. The proposed noise mitigation measures in the RWDI report do not consider this area, despite the planned increase in population - a situation that often leads to conflicts between motorsports venues and residents.

At the Open House, VIMC proclaimed a budget of "over 1 million dollars" for noise mitigation, but after 2.5 years of operation VIMC has yet to come up with a validated design for noise mitigation, let alone implementing the kind of engineered solutions that should have been part of the original track design. This is despite spending huge sums on modelling studies and consultants that could have been replaced by one well-designed and executed noise study using real-time recordings of a wide range of track activities. Residents of the Cowichan Valley deserve more than just theoretical plans, or plans based on poorly-validated computer models of a facility that already exists.

If VIMC intends to build noise mitigation for Phase 1, why not do it now rather than hold the community hostage in exchange for approval of Phase 2? Let them first prove they can make a meaningful impact on noise reduction: build noise mitigation on the existing facility now, and allow it to withstand the test of daily operations. Only then can we be sure that the problem of sports car noise and squealing tires will finally be solved.

* equivalent sound levels (similar to an average sound level); for reference, an increase of 10 dB is perceived by the human ear as a doubling of sound level

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