First Nations drummers make their presence known in the lobby of the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre in advance of a public hearing on a proposed rezoning of property owned by the Cowichan Motorsport Circuit. Cowichan Tribes has been opposed to expansion plans at the site. (Warren Goulding/Citizen)

First Nations drummers make their presence known in the lobby of the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre in advance of a public hearing on a proposed rezoning of property owned by the Cowichan Motorsport Circuit. Cowichan Tribes has been opposed to expansion plans at the site. (Warren Goulding/Citizen)

N. Cowichan rejects Motorsport rezoning for a second time

The surprise of the night came when Siebring switched to the no side

After almost six hours of input from the public, North Cowichan councillors once again rejected Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit’s bid to expand its facility.

The second round of hearings into the proposed rezoning application was necessitated after Mayor Al Siebring determined additional information had come forward after the initial hearing and rejection of the expansion plan in early October.

Siebring announced that he was exercising his power to ask council to walk back their decision not to approve the rezoning and have council reconsider its vote, revealing that turning down the rezoning had opened the municipality up to a possible $60-million liability.

Monday night’s hearing at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre drew a large crowd and more than 90 speakers expressed their opinion on the issue, with about 80 per cent opposed.

Just after midnight, the six councillors and Siebring voted 6-1 to defeat the rezoning bylaw.

The surprise of the night came when Siebring switched to the no side after voting for the expansion at the earlier meeting. Only Coun. Tek Manhas supported the expansion bylaw.

“I have to acknowledge what I heard here to night,” Siebring said, stating that he had prepared two set of comments and went into the meeting with an open mind.

“The clear majority are saying take the risk,” Siebring added, in reference to the possibility of a huge lawsuit against the municipality.

Several speakers urged council to fight the lawsuit and others called the possible action by VIMC “a bluff” and “a bullying tactic.”

Siebring’s turnabout drew loud applause from the audience, many of whom had been loudly critical of the mayor’s stance and comments throughout the hearing.

The presence of First Nations elders and Cowichan Tribes members who stressed the importance of the property near Mt. Prevost and expressed concerns about the environment clearly made an impact on council, including Siebring who said the words of one speaker, Shawn Johnny, hit home for him.

“I’m really disappointed in the friction this is causing our community,” Johnny said, adding one person told him, “you people think you own everything” as he entered the hall.

“That was the thing that impacted me the most,” Siebring said just before he announced his no vote.

The five councillors who voted against the expansion said they were voting against the expansion but not acting to shut down the existing operations at the track, known as phase one.

“This is not about shutting down phase one,” Coun. Chris Justice said.

Coun. Rob Douglas agreed.

“My concerns about wildlife and the Somenos watershed still stand and there was significant opposition from Cowichan Tribes,” Douglas said.

“But this is not about shutting down phase one.”

Late last week, a lawyer representing Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit told the municipality his client would not be attending the public hearing.

In a letter to the Municipality of North Cowichan Sean Hern, a partner in the law firm that represents the VIMC, said the Circuit has chosen instead to proceed “in accordance with its legal and equitable rights” on the issue.

He said VIMC made that decision after council decided on Dec. 4 not to issue a development permit for the expansion.

Before adjourning at 1 a.m., council voted to rescind second reading of the controversial expansion bylaw and to amend the bylaw to apply only to phase one (the existing facility) and bring it back for third reading in January.

Siebring says that legal step will provide clarity on the permitted use for the existing track.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vees' Jack Barnes picked up his second goal of the season in the team's 5-0 win over Merritt on Saturday. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Cowichan Capitals in deadline dilemma with 20-year-old players

Hard decisions loom when BCHL may or may not resume play

The latest homeless count in the Valley found 129 in a 24-hour period. (File photo)
Latest homeless count reveals 129 in the Cowichan Valley

But local officials believe number is higher

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

An employee at Duncan’s Real Canadian Superstore has tested positive for COVID-19. (Don Bodger/Black Press)
More positive COVID-19 tests reported at Cowichan Superstore

Employees last worked on Feb. 12, 13 and 15.

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

When his owner had knee surgery, Kevin, 2, was able to continue to go for walks thanks to volunteers from Elder Dog Canada. (Contributed photo)
B.C. woman has nothing but praise for Elder Dog Canada

National organization has a fleet of volunteer walkers ready, but needs more clients to serve

Most Read