Saratoga Speedway campsite proposal will go to public hearing

Noise the key concern tied to plan for Black Creek race track development

Saratoga Speedway owner Rob Leighton hopes to build a campground at the site in Black Creek. File photo

Saratoga Speedway owner Rob Leighton hopes to build a campground at the site in Black Creek. File photo

Rural directors of the Comox Valley Regional District approved second reading of a rezoning application for campsites at Saratoga Speedway in Black Creek.

A public hearing will be held before the board considers third reading of the proposal that has drawn a great deal of pushback from locals. The Saratoga Speedway Complex Concerned Citizens (SSCCC) say that adding 168 RV sites will add to the noise, and adversely affect traffic and the environment.

READ: Black Creek group requests due process in Saratoga application

In a Monday presentation to the Electoral Area Services Committee, Niels Holbeck said a section of the Local Government Act states that bylaws adopted by the board after adopting a Regional Growth Strategy must be consistent with the RGS. However, many of the group’s concerns are inconsistent with the document.

“Climate change is here and we won’t escape unscathed,” said Holbeck, noting a long-term target of the Sustainability Strategy is an 80 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Data, however, is not available to see if targets are on course. “What message is the CVRD sending to the community and society?”

Track owner Rob Leighton says the additional campsites won’t add noise, but the SSCCC said an assessment that was conducted was inadequate. They request a credible noise study. The group also feels a traffic assessment was not properly conducted.

Holbeck suggests the CVRD submit an application referral request to the Environment Ministry, and to withhold Leighton’s application until it reviews a referral.

The Concerned Citizens don’t understand how the CVRD can consider an application without a Local Area Plan. The district has said the planning process for the Saratoga Beach LAP was paused in 2017 because servicing studies needed to be conducted.

SSCCC member Shelly Hollingshead noted a referral letter from the Saratoga and Miracle Beach Residents Association ignores the group’s concerns, even though the SAMBRA chair said the residents were not informed about the application.

“SAMBRA has not had any residents’ meetings for over two years, and its membership consists of five people,” she said.

Group member Jonathan Brenner said the SAMBRA letter creates an “unequal bias that influences today’s decision.”

Hollingshead said a number of long-term residents might move due to the unpredictable increased frequency and volume of noise at the track.

Brenner also noted that a biophysical report did not look beyond the track.

“The audacity of Leighton Holdings to say that there was no wildlife or habitat or fish on their property is ridiculous,” he said. “Of course there’s nothing on there because it’s all polluted.”

“I think a lot of this is a red herring issue, so we have to get our minds down to what we are talking about here in regards to rezoning a campground,” said Area C director Edwin Grieve, noting thousands of vehicles pass over highways 19 and 19A every day. “We have bigger fish to fry than a campsite, so keep the focus there.”

But Brenner said the project will add 168 vehicles to the area.

The campsite proposal spans five lots. Kevin Brooks, senior planner at McElhanney, said all noise concerns cannot be alleviated, but can be limited via soft landscaping, berming and fencing. He said Leighton is looking to host 34 events a year, plus Thursday afternoon practice sessions. The application proposes a road widening, and a park ’n ride. In terms of water and sanitary sewer, there will be no new connection to the Black Creek system.

Grieve and Area A director Daniel Arbour voted in favour of second reading while Area B director Arzeena Hamir opposed the rezoning bylaw. Hamir feels the community will be bearing the brunt of repercussions, particularly noise. She is also concerned about water in the future.

A public hearing date will be announced.

Later in the meeting, directors approved Grieve’s motion for a staff report about revising the noise bylaw as it pertains to auto racing.

“That would give us some levers of control over the noise,” he said. “Right now we have absolutely zero we can do about that.”

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Comox Valley Regional District