One of the most hotly debated topics around town for the last few years – and especially during the recent municipal election – is the proposal for a drag strip to be built at the Campbell River airport.
The Vancouver Island Motor Sports Association (VIMSA) has been working on the plan for some time, now, and the proposal has been gaining steam, with hundreds turning out to information sessions – a large number of whom express their support for the plan.
Campbell River city council was set to give first reading on amendments that would begin the process of allowing for the motorsports park to be constructed out at the airport at it’s last meeting, but pulled the item from the agenda. Instead, they received some more feedback about the plan.
The first was from Couverdon Real Estate, the company currently constructing Phase 1 of the Jubilee Heights neighbourhood west of South Dogwood. Couverdon has concerns, the letter says, about the potential impacts the noise from the track would have on the future residents of the subdivision.
“Ask yourself this question,” the letter asks of council, “if you owned a home and lived within a couple walking minutes of a small vibrant commercial village and an enviable multi-use trail network in the Beaver Lodge Lands, would you like to have a drag racing strip within earshot? Would the addition of evening and weekend background engine noise six months of the year add value to your lifestyle, outdoor enjoyment and home resale or not?”
Couverdon points out in its letter that the zoning for its subdivision was approved all the way back in 2011 and since that time, they have cost-shared an off-site neighbourhood sewer upgrade with the city, “which benefits not only Jubilee Heights but other privately owned South Campbell River Lands and the Homalco IR,” as well as as water service upgrades, storm water retention pond expansion, an extensive community trail system as well as and the onsite servicing (roads/utilities) for Phase 1 of the residential component of Jubilee Heights, which brings their investment in the community to a total of more than $6 million.
“It is expected that future phases of the Jubilee Heights neighbourhood will be constructed over the next decade, with significant additional investment required by Couverdon for this build out to happen,” the letter reads, but adds that the drag strip proposal “creates concern for the viability of the Jubilee Heights neighbourhood development and Couverdon’s future investment.”
The letter says that although VIMSA has provided noise studies that suggest the audible intrusion from the track will be minimal on the surrounding area, Couverdon says that study “does not address the persistent, fluctuant noise of drag racing every three to four minutes. We have been led to understand that over 1400 runs (races) will take place on a racing weekend. This noise pollution would be akin to your neighbour operating a machine on their property, at a noise level not immediately obtrusive if done in short duration, but extremely disruptive if continued constantly from Friday night through Sunday, every weekend for six months.”
Couverdon also disagrees, the letter says, with the city considering VIMSA’s request for tax exemptions somewhere in the neighbourhood of $360,000 per year.
Council also, however, received a letter from VIMSA president Jim Johnson in response to Couverdon’s concerns, defending the proposal.
“We do not want to build a facility in a place that would cause a noise issue,” Johnson says. “I’ve seen many racing facilities come and go, and I have no interest in being involved in one that’s built in the wrong location.”
Johnson says that during the VIMSA noise study, they used the loudest car the facility would see and the engineer who did the test was stationed on old Erickson Road, in the bush a few hundred feet west of Dogwood. That engineer, Johnson says, could not physically hear the car at all. “We do not claim that you will never hear race car activity, only that if you do, it will be minimal.”
Johnson also says that the large majority of cars racing at the track will be much quieter than what people think of when they hear the term drag racing. Many of the cars, in fact, will actually be street legal, and the races will likely be every other weekend, not every weekend, as Couverdon states in its letter.
VIMSA also questions the idea that they will be costing the city money by asking for a tax exemption on the use of the land, pointing out that the city currently gets zero dollars from that property, so saying that by continuing to do so they are losing $360,000 per year in revenue is misleading.
“This land is unused and without this project probably will be sitting empty doing nothing for the city,” Johnson writes. “If we were to ask for the token $1 per year lease it would be a $1 more than they are currently getting. Oh yes, and we are willing to invest $4-5 million to improve the property (no taxpayer money) to conservatively bring a $5 million economic impact annually to the city.”
The earliest the city could consider moving forward with the zoning amendment that would begin the process of allowing the facility would be at its next regular public meeting not already designated for 2019 financial planning, which is scheduled for Dec. 17.