On Saturday I met Richard Harris, a young man in the midst of planning a June wedding at his fiancee’s family property in the Sahtlam neighbourhood, near Duncan. “She’s always had the dream of having this wedding take place there, where it’s family, it’s home,” he told me. “It’s everything that — I’m not really qualified to say this, but — it’s everything a little girl would dream of.”
But there’s one aspect of the big day that feels a little less than perfect. About a kilometre away at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit, cars will likely be buzzing around the track, shattering the illusion of rural tranquility. “You spend any time on the property any day when they’re running a car on the track, and it’s like it’s 100 metres away,” he said.
He told me the wedding planners have had little success negotiating for a period of quiet so the bride and groom can say their vows. Track managers have promised to release a schedule for them to work around, Harris said, but he hasn’t seen one yet.
I met Harris at the Duncan Farmers Market, where I approached people to ask what they knew, and what they thought, about the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit. I also spoke with people at the Tim Hortons on Trunk Road. I heard a variety of opinions, including support, criticism and indifference.
An older gentleman said he has visited the track, and liked it, but that he was also aware neighbours have complaints about the noise. A woman with a young son said she wished there were opportunities for her lower middle-class family to enjoy it. One woman suggested the track could earn her support if it hosted electric cars only.
Out of about a dozen people I spoke with, most suggested there’s more the track owners could do to be better neighbours. But the opinions were generally moderate — no one told me the track is unequivocally good or bad. Harris, who of those I spoke with has been most personally affected, expressed that he’s not against the track, he only would like to see better noise mitigation and communication with nearby residents.
When I speak with those in charge of operations at the track, I’ll ask what they’re doing to address these community concerns, including Harris’s. I reached out last week, but haven’t yet received a reply. I look forward to community open houses planned for April 24 and 29 at VIMC to further get to know track staff and neighbours.
I received feedback from one individual on my Facebook page that merely collecting viewpoints on this issue won’t do any good. While I firmly believe there’s value in giving people space to be heard, I agree that there’s much more work to be done. There are big questions at stake, made pressing by the rezoning application now in front of the Municipality of North Cowichan that would pave the way for a major expansion of the track.
If you had a seat on council, what would you want to know about the track’s operations — past, present or future — in order to inform your vote?
I look forward to continuing the conversation.