Court quashed the decision last year by North Cowichan to deny the VIMC a permit for its $36-million expansion plans. (File photo)

Court quashed the decision last year by North Cowichan to deny the VIMC a permit for its $36-million expansion plans. (File photo)

Court quashes North Cowichan’s decision to deny expansion at VIMC

Municipality ordered to reassess rezoning application

The Municipality of North Cowichan’s council will meet today (Nov. 10) to discuss the Supreme Court of British Columbia’s ruling that it failed to provide justification for the controversial decision to deny the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit its development plans.

Mayor Al Siebring said it’s up to council whether it will appeal the decision, issued by Justice Diane MacDonald on Nov. 6, or to go back and redo the process for VIMC’s application.

“The court’s decision was based on a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada that was made before our judicial review was held in September,” Siebring said.

“That ruling stated that if a public institution is going to change a policy, they must explain why. Basically, we were entitled to make the decision we made, but we had to give the reasons for it. We were not aware of that at the time.”

MOTORSPORT CIRCUIT GOES TO JUDICIAL REVIEW OVER NORTH COWICHAN DEVELOPMENT PERMIT DENIAL

In her ruling, MacDonald said that for six years, North Cowichan supported the VIMC’s development and was satisfied that its uses complied with the zoning bylaw.

“In these circumstances, it was arbitrary for the council to diametrically disagree with a past interpretation of the zoning bylaw without explaining the basis for the disagreement,” she said.

“There was a reason, the uses were not compliant with the zoning bylaw, but no explanation. Not providing a justification in and of itself renders the decision unreasonable. It was incumbent on the municipality to justify the decision. Unfortunately, neither the council nor the underlying record explain to the (VIMC) the basis for the municipality’s complete reversal of its earlier decision. This lack of justification undermines public confidence in the rule of law and renders the decision unreasonable.”

MacDonald said council’s decision to deny the application for a development permit is quashed, and the matter is remitted back to council.

“The council is to assess the application on its technical merits and reconsider it in light of these reasons,” she said.

North Cowichan’s director of planning Rob Conway sent a letter to the VIMC denying them a development permit for its $36-million expansion plans after a contentious, marathon public hearing that took two days to complete in October, 2019.

Council decided to not allow rezoning for the expansion — which would have included a new five-kilometre paved motor vehicle circuit, an off-road motor vehicle circuit, a new clubhouse and buildings for maintaining, repairing and storing motor vehicles — after that public hearing.

RELATED STORY: $50M LIABILITY WORRY HAS NORTH COWICHAN MAYOR ASKING FOR MOTORSPORT DO-OVER

Council again denied the application after a second public hearing on the expansion plans was held in December, 2019.

Based on council’s decision on the application after October’s public hearing, Conway said in his letter to the VIMC that he was “obliged” to deny the application for a development permit for the project.

“I appreciate that it is [your] position that the development proposed…is for the same land use as under the development permit issued by North Cowichan for phase one of the VIMC and, as such, there has been a past determination that the land use in compliance with (zoning),” Conway said in the letter.

“However, upon careful review, I have concluded that the proposed land use is not permitted [under zoning].”

But in her ruling, MacDonald said property owners have an expectation of consistency when they rely on established and longstanding representations and decisions by a municipality.

“When consistency is denied in these circumstances, property owners have a right to know why,” she wrote.

“That is particularly so where, as here, the prior decision and practices involved the very same parties, uses, zones, and zoning bylaw.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

municipal politics

Just Posted

A man was issued a $230 fine after refusing to wear a mask inside a Central Saanich business. (Central Saanich Police Services/Twitter)
New restrictions unmasking Vancouver Island’s belligerent

Businesses recount customer anger about mask edict, as police pledge fines and enforcement

The president and chief executive officer of BC Ferries promises additional reviews to help sustain BC Ferries. (Black Press Media File)
BC Ferries to review expenditures following 43 per cent passenger drop in 2020

Promise from CEO follows new figures showing significant decline in passengers

Local MLA Adam Olsen, a member of the Tsartlip Nation, here seen before the 2020 provincial election, said a new report finding “widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people” in the provincial health care system does not surprise Indigenous people. (Hansard TV)
Island MLA: ‘You cannot address systemic racism one silo at a time’

Adam Olsen calls for comprehensive approach in the wake of damning report of racism in health care

Police in Nanaimo never know what they’ll encounter when called upon to check on the well-being of people. (News Bulletin file photo)
A few weeks in the life of the wellness of a community

Nanaimo RCMP find heart-breaks and smiles during a sampling of recent wellness checks

The Port Alice Community Centre opened its doors to the public Wednesday through Friday morning, offering coffee, tea, hot soup, meals and warmth. Cots were available for overnight stays. The centre had a generator, so people were able to charge their devices. Approximately 75 residents passed through during the three-day outage. (Debra Lynn photo)
Three days in the cold: remote Port Alice survives the power outage

The Port Alice Community Centre opened its doors to the public Wednesday through Friday morning.

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

The CVRD will reconsider its policies on fireworks after receiving complaints. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley Regional District considers options for fireworks after complaints

Distict only allows fireworks on Halloween and New Year’s Eve, with a permit

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

Paramedics register patients at a drive through, pop-up COVID-19 test centre outside the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, in Ottawa, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians aren’t currently worried that people in other countries might get a COVID-19 vaccine first. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canadians not worried other countries will get COVID-19 vaccine first: poll

Forty-one per cent of respondents say they want the vaccine to be mandatory for all Canadians

Patricia Kent, 25, was reported missing over the weekend, as her family has been unable to reach her, say police. (Photo submitted)
UPDATE: RCMP say missing Nanaimo woman found

Patricia Kent, 25, has not been seen nor heard from since Saturday, say police

(Courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
Second driver facing impaired charges after View Royal traffic stop leads to loaded firearms

West Shore RCMP stop swerving motorist and Saanich woman who came to pick her up

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Most Read