A judicial review of the Municipality of North Cowichan’s decision last year to deny the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit a development permit to expand its facility on Highway 18 is underway.
The judicial review is being held in a Vancouver courtroom over two days, Sept. 9-10, in which both sides will present their cases, with the court expected to release its decision sometime after that.
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring and CAO Ted Swabey are attending the judicial review.
The court will decide if the municipality followed proper procedures in denying the development application.
If the court decides in favour of the VIMC, the implications could be financially dire for North Cowichan.
In a report to council written last December, Swabey said if the VIMC sues, which it has indicated it would if the judicial review goes its way, the municipality could face a liability of up to $60 million in a worst-case scenario.
After two well-attended public hearings on VIMC’s expansion proposal held last November and December, North Cowichan’s council decided twice to deny the rezoning application due to community concerns about noise, environmental impacts, and First Nations objections.
The liability North Cowichan could face was spelled out in correspondence the municipality received from the VIMC’s lawyers, Hutchison Oss-Cech Marlatt Barristers & Solicitors, soon after the rezoning application was rejected.
It stated that when the VIMC bought the property from the municipality in 2016, it was based on the written assurances from North Cowichan, without any disclaimers, that the zoning for the intended uses “was appropriate”, and, based on that assurance, the VIMC invested over $37 million to construct phase one of the facility and was fully intending and expecting to build phase two on adjacent lands.
The letter said the VIMC will “pursue all legal remedies available”.
“In the circumstances, having invested so much time and money in reliance on the municipality’s assurances and conduct to date, it will be left with no other choice,” the letter concluded.