North Cowichan councillors have put the brakes on a controversial expansion plan for the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit.
After a marathon public hearing that lasted for more than 13 hours over two days, council voted 5-2 against a rezoning application that would have allowed the Circuit to create a new track and other facilities adjacent to the current operation on Highway 18.
Mayor Al Siebring and Coun. Tek Manhas voted in favour of the new plan with councillors Kate Marsh, Christopher Justice, Rob Douglas, Rosalie Sawrie and Debra Toporowski opposed.
The end of the line for the expansion attempt came at 2:30 a.m. Friday morning when the public hearing that featured input from more than 140 speakers — some got up to speak more than once — wrapped up and council moved into a council meeting to debate the issue.
The public hearing was a raucous affair at times with the acrimony that has been a part of the process for several months evident as speaker after speaker rose to have their three-minute say. Allegations of dishonesty and personal comments have been a part of the dialogue on social media and some of it carried over to the public hearing that began on Tuesday night and resumed Thursday.
The hearing was held in the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre due to the anticipated huge turnout for the event. On Tuesday night more than 500 people attended. The Thursday hearing attracted fewer people, approximately 400, but many stayed until the end.
After the vote was announced, there was a loud outcry of victory from the no side that had dominated the public input on the second night with cries of joy and celebratory hugs amongst the group.