Despite our recent positive announcement regarding the end of our lawsuit with the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit (VIMC), in which we expressed a desire to work more openly and collaboratively with all parties, we have sadly been forced to address the less-than-congenial "Open Letter" that was recently published by VIMC. This letter, which has been posted on the VIMC Facebook page, printed in the Cowichan Citizen, and sent to the personal mailboxes of thousands of Cowichan Valley residents, contains allegations and falsehoods that we feel must be addressed.
1. The Open Letter begins by describing VIMC as a "family owned business". In fact, the corporate structure at VIMC involves a complex relationship between several companies. The operator of VIMC is an Ontario numbered company doing business as "The Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit". The land upon which VIMC sits (and the three adjoining parcels) are owned by another Ontario numbered company, the principal of which is Dr. Sylvester Chuang, a radiologist who lives in Toronto. Dr. Chuang also heads up the Auto World Imports Network (AWIN), a chain of luxury car dealerships in Toronto that has a stake in VIMC, although the financial nature of AWIN's relationship to VIMC is unclear. The German Auto Import Network (GAIN) Group in Victoria also has a stake in VIMC, as well as the Villa Eyrie in Malahat and the recently purchased Cowichan River Lodge in Lake Cowichan. The exact relationship between AWIN, GAIN, and the two Ontario numbered companies is unclear, and we have been unable to find any information about who is investing in these enterprises. Nevertheless, this complex corporate structure is hardly what comes to mind when Cowichan Valley residents think of a "family owned business".
2. The Open Letter then refers to a recent court case, stating:
"The Courts disagreed [that we were operating illegally]"
"We applied...for a development permit, which the Court has now said was properly issued"
These statements are not only false, but they are a gross misrepresentation of the case and the judge's ruling.
First, the issue of development permits was never raised: not in our original nuisance lawsuit (click here to download the Notice of Civil Claim) nor in the more recent hearing to which the Open Letter refers (click here to download the Notice of Application). Second, the Court made no ruling on the legality of VIMC's development permit or any other aspect of their operations (click here to download the Judgement).
In fact, the Court said that the plaintiffs' could still raise the issue of whether VIMC is compliant with North Cowichan zoning bylaws, but only as it relates to the claim of excessive noise. The Court refused the plaintiffs' request for a Declaration (a formal statement of the Court's findings on any bylaw violations) and an Injunction (a Court-ordered halt to any noncompliant activities that might be discovered), because these would be binding for the municipality. The judge felt that this would infringe too greatly on North Cowichan's autonomy; accordingly, the plaintiffs "lost" that part of the lawsuit, and the Municipality of North Cowichan was dismissed as a third party (click here for the full story). Importantly, the issue of whether VIMC is operating in compliance with zoning bylaws was never decided by the Court, and would have remained open had the case gone to trial.
3. The Open Letter makes reference to facts revealed during Discovery:
"Because of these discoveries, the residents chose to withdraw and allow the rest of the lawsuit to be dismissed as if it were lost."
First, the author of this letter is weaving dangerously close to a breach of contract. The over-15,000 documents that were exchanged as part of Discovery and Disclosure were subject to an "implied undertaking", where the parties and their lawyers agreed that the information would be used solely for the purposes of the lawsuit. It is therefore a breach of this agreement to use that evidence for any other purpose, including the negative smear campaign this Open Letter represents. Given the sheer volume of evidence provided from all sides of this lawsuit, it would be impossible to make the information public in any useful way, even if it were allowed.
Second, nowhere in the discovery evidence - nor in any correspondence between the parties - were the reasons for our offer-to-dismiss stated. Thus, the author of this Open Letter is engaging in pure speculation and presumption. The SNA has already provided an explanation for the decision to settle without terms (click here for the full story). Importantly, it was VIMC who approached us for a settlement, not the other way around, a fact that our lawyer can confirm.
When we published our news about the end of the lawsuit, we did so in the spirit of optimism. Mayor Al Siebring said it best on his Facebook page when he wrote: "Much better to settle this as 'neighbours' rather than using the oppositional methods that are inherent in legal actions." We could not agree more, and that had been our aim. We hoped that removing lawyers from the discussion might allow for a more collaborative approach with all parties. It is unfortunate that VIMC has chosen to respond with negativity, unsubstantiated claims, and misrepresentation of the facts. Nevertheless, we remain hopeful that a resolution to the issues of racetrack noise in our neighbourhood can be attained through respectful and evidence-based dialogue.