A three-judge panel from the British Columbia Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the Municipality of North Cowichan’s decision to deny the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit a development permit for a proposed expansion to its site on Highway 18.
The Honourable Madam Justice Saunders said on Nov. 3 that she was “not persuaded” with the VIMC’s argument that the municipality failed to provide justification for the controversial decision in 2019 to deny the VIMC its $36-million development plans by not issuing the development permit it needed to proceed.
In its summary, the panel said the judge who conducted a judicial review of the issue last year and quashed the municipality’s decision to deny the permit erred in characterizing the decision as a departure from North Cowichan’s longstanding practices.
“From the text, context and purpose of [North Cowichan’s] zoning bylaw, the decision made by council that the use [the VIMC] proposed making of the lands was not permitted under the zoning bylaw was reasonable,” the panel said.
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said he’s pleased the court decided that the municipality was fully within its right in denying the VIMC its development permit.
“The VIMC has the right to appeal this decision with the Supreme Court of Canada, but it was a unanimous decision by the panel and that could make any appeal difficult,” he said.
“We were also awarded the costs for this appeal and the hearing by the lower court. Not all the costs are covered, but the taxpayers won’t be out of a whole lot of money.”
The VIMC couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
North Cowichan’s director of planning Rob Conway sent a letter to the VIMC denying the organization a development permit for its expansion plans after a contentious, marathon public hearing that took two days to complete in October, 2019.
Council decided not to 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.
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, Conway said in his letter to the VIMC that he was obliged to deny the application for a development permit for the project.
Conway said in the letter that he appreciates the development that the VIMC was proposing was for the same land use as under the development permit issued by North Cowichan for phase one of the VIMC project.
“However, upon careful review, I have concluded that the proposed land use is not permitted [under zoning],” Conway said.
The VIMC then filed for a judicial review of North Cowichan’s decision to determine if council’s process was correct in supporting Conway’s letter, and if there were any procedural errors in law in the way in which council’s decision was made.
In November, 2020, the Supreme Court of B.C. decided to quash North Cowichan’s decision not to give the VIMC a development permit stating that the municipality had failed to provide justification for the decision.
“The council is to assess the application on its technical merits and reconsider it in light of these reasons,” the court said at the time.
Council decided to appeal the decision of the Supreme Court of B.C., which resulted in the Court of Appeal’s decision on Nov. 3.