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New bylaw will charge Saratoga Speedway for campground sites

Comox Valley Regional District bylaw to bill campground developers in Black Creek and Oyster Bay
Saratoga Speedway overhead view. File photo

The regional district on Tuesday (April 9) adopted a bylaw allowing local government to bill the Saratoga Speedway more than a thousand dollars per campsite that it develops.

In October the district gave final approval to Saratoga Speedway to rezone for a campground. As part of the deal, the district on Tuesday adopted a bylaw that would raise roughly $240,000 if Saratoga follows through with its proposed 168-site campground.

The bylaw introduced a cost to all campground developments in the region of Black Creek and Oyster Bay. Anyone who develops a campsite will pay money to the district.

Regional district manager of water and wastewater services Kris La Rose told the Record the district passed the bylaw on Tuesday in order to capture funding from Saratoga as it builds its upcoming campground. “Without the rate in place, the community would be paying the cost to upgrade. That wouldn’t be fair,” said La Rose.

When developments (such as Saratoga’s upcoming campground) grow an area, he said, it increases the pressure on public services. He said the cost to upgrade services would fall on taxpayers if the district didn’t collect payment from Saratoga.

The bylaw sets a charge of $1,414 per camping space built on properties in Black Creek and Oyster Bay region. It was introduced in May 2021, 20 days after Saratoga’s application for a campground was introduced to the district’s Electoral Area Services Committee.

The district’s new bylaw passed its three readings that month, and was approved by an inspector in June of 2021. It then lay dormant for the next three years.

Saratoga Speedway withdrew its application for a campsite in 2022 — meaning it no longer planned to develop the area. At that time, the district held off on fourth and final reading.

In 2023, Saratoga Speedway reintroduced its bid for a campground. The application was approved by the regional district in October, and on Tuesday, the district passed its years-in-the-making bylaw to charge campsites in Black Creek and Oyster Bay. It means Saratoga will pay fees to develop. And so will anyone else in the area that wants to build campsites.

La Rose told the Record the district was upfront with Saratoga Speedway about the charges. The parties communicated and Saratoga agreed it would pay the charges — there was no surprise on either side.

The Record sent an email to Saratoga Speedway asking for comment about the bylaw, however did not receive a response. Management at the speedway previously told the Record they had no interest in speaking about the campground.

The fees to be levied on Saratoga, called “development cost charges,” are a common practice between developers and local governments in the development industry. The process is generally designed so that governments raise money from developers whose projects introduce costs that the government needs to cover.

In the case of Saratoga Speedway, La Rose said the upcoming campground intends to use district water supply. The funding slated to come from bylaw charges is planned to cover the cost needed to upgrade water infrastructure as needed to support the proposed 168-site campground.

The bylaw was not originally created because of Saratoga Speedway, said La Rose. The district realized it needed to update its bylaws as Saratoga was one of several projects on the horizon that the district needed to charge.

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