The saga of a proposed expanion of an exclusive motorsports club near Duncan may not be over yet.
The Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit is applying for leave to make an application to the Supreme Court of Canada to hear its appeal against North Cowichan over the municipality’s decision to deny the VIMC a development permit for the proposed expansion to its site on Highway 18 in 2019.
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said he expects the VIMC to make its application to the Supreme Court of Canada in the next month or two, and the court will likely make its decision on whether to hear the case or not by September or October.
Asked if he though the court would hear the case, Siebring said he has long since given up trying to figure out what judges will do, but he’s cautiously optimistic the outcome will, again, be in favour of the municipality.
He said the Supreme Court of Canada generally looks at cases based on whether or not the outcome has compelling national significance, like in 2009 when the court decided to hear Catalyst Paper’s appeal in which the company claimed North Cowichan was billing it with unfairly high property-tax rates on its mill in Crofton.
The court decided in 2012 to dismiss Catalyst’s appeal stating that, while the municipality’s tax rates were high, they were allowed under B.C.’s Community Charter.
“That was a local government tax issue that the court saw as having national significance, but a case like this is just procedural minutia on how council dealt with a development application,” Siebring said.
“The court may or may not decide to look at VIMC’s case based on how big they think the principles involved are in the national scheme of things.”
Officials at the VIMC could not be reached for comment.
In November, a three-judge panel from the British Columbia Court of Appeal unanimously upheld North Cowichan’s decision to deny the VIMC the development permit for its proposed expansion.
The Honourable Madam Justice Saunders said at the time that she was “not persuaded” with the VIMC’s argument that the municipality failed to provide justification for the controversial decision to deny the VIMC its $36-million development plans.
In its summary, the panel said the judge who conducted a judicial review of the issue in 2020 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 concluded.
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.