A Black Creek couple claims that many residents in the community north of Courtenay were not able to enjoy the Victoria Day weekend due to four days of noise and pollution from Saratoga Speedway.
Niels and Ann Holbek, who have lived in the area full-time since 1974, say the race track noise has worsened since Rob and Lee Leighton purchased the track in 2020.
“We accepted the activity at the track in the past,” said Niels, who recalls racing had been restricted to Saturday afternoons and evenings, and practices Thursday afternoons and evenings. Last year was particularly bad, though he said it’s been somewhat better this year. “There also seems to be more daily track time use than in the past.”
The Leightons had hoped to build 168 RV campsites on their property at Saratoga, but withdrew a rezoning application that drew a great deal of pushback from the community.
Edwin Grieve, Area C director of the Comox Valley Regional District, said a rezoning would have enabled local officials to ask for concessions and community amenities. He notes Rob had offered a memorandum of understanding that included limited hours of operation. He had also proposed sound mitigation through site modification and strict muffler regulations.
“Unfortunately, due to the effect of negative social media on his family, he has decided to withdraw his rezoning application,” Grieve said. “This in effect has reverted the business back to ‘legal non-conforming use,’ and has taken away the CVRD’s opportunity to negotiate changes that were on the table during the legislative process.”
To her understanding, Area B director Arzeena Hamir said the Leightons have changed race times to include each day of the week during summer, and have removed some vegetative buffer that had stifled noise.
Leighton has not commented on the situation.
Along with noise, Niels is also concerned about environmental consequences.
“The reckless use of fossil fuels for auto racing is anachronistic and frustrating for those of us that are striving to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Holbek, who suggests local government is insensitive to noise and air pollution emanating from the track.
He said regional district staff and rural directors have failed to make progress on a noise bylaw that was promised years ago.
Grieve said the bylaw did not pertain to highways and racetracks. He notes other jurisdictions have managed to co-exist with encroaching residential development.
“We are looking now to amending our noise bylaw to include racetracks,” Grieve said. “This will be complicated and will take time.”