Monica Parkin, representing the Supporters of Saratoga Motorsports Park, addressed the CVRD board Tuesday. Scott Stanfield photo

Monica Parkin, representing the Supporters of Saratoga Motorsports Park, addressed the CVRD board Tuesday. Scott Stanfield photo

Regional directors look for middle ground at Black Creek track

Nearly 6,000 people have signed the Saratoga Speedway Supporters petition

Regional district directors are hoping to find some middle ground when it comes to balancing noise complaints with the business operation at Saratoga Speedway in Black Creek.

Last month, rural directors voted to amend the noise bylaw after hearing complaints about objectionable auto racing noise from the Saratoga Speedway Complex Concerned Citizens (SSCCC) group. However, the board had a change of heart at Tuesday’s (July 12) meeting when the gallery was filled with speedway supporters.

“It’s disappointing to see it come to this,” area resident Scott Fleming said in a presentation. Over the years, he said the track has created jobs and attracted tourists, but will be challenged to offer events with limited hours. Fleming would like to see an audio report with hard data that indicates how noise is affecting people. “We felt taken off guard by how this was passed so quickly. I feel that the board did not take into consideration all the issues from all sides fairly…It seems that so far it’s been a one-sided battle.”

READ: Saratoga Speedway proponents say majority are in favour of the facility

Track owner Rob Leighton has asked the board to reconsider its decision to adopt Bylaw No. 713 as new regulations will impact his business. Directors had voted to limit auto racing noise from 10 a.m.-8 p.m., no more than five days a week, with a 30-day grace period to allow the owner to adjust operational needs and schedules. However, Leighton needs more time to implement new regulations. In a letter, he says directors decided too quickly.

“The impacts of the bylaw are not the wishes of most of the community,” he states.

Leighton requested a change for permitted racing times from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Monica Parkin, a second presenter representing Supporters of Saratoga Motorsports Park, said the SSCCC is a relatively small group of people that does not represent the larger community. Nearly 6,000 people have signed the Saratoga Speedway Supporters change.org petition.

“There’s a silent majority that does not agree with the bylaw and the way it was passed,” Parkin said. “There was no community announcement. It hit people unaware.”

She said the track has been an employer and tourist attraction since 1968 — before the naysayers moved to the area. Parkin feels the ‘noise pollution’ is the sound of community, local jobs and family-friendly entertainment.

Area C director Edwin Grieve admitted the CVRD has not handled this issue correctly.

“I think we made a mistake, we kind of broke our own rules at the last meeting,” he said, referring to simultaneous approval of third reading and adoption, and staff’s suggestion to halt racing at 9:30 p.m. “It’s always tough to get a middle ground. I think what we’re trying to do is balance the operator’s right to do business with some of the concerns of some of the neighboring residents…This is a big issue we have to get right.”

Comox director Ken Grant noted that municipalities are not allowed to approve three readings and adoption at the same meeting, but CAO Russell Dyson said no legislative rules have been broken. The bylaw had been adopted with two-thirds majority. However, further amendments can be made.

On Tuesday, the three rural directors approved a staff recommendation for a report with options to address noise control regulation proposals from the speedway.

Social media attacks

Area B director Arzeena Hamir was the target of some personal attacks when the Supporters of Saratoga group first formed. She asked how and why this was needed.

“There is no way that this group condones that,” Parkin said. “Those posts were deleted. In any public group, you’re going to get some bad apples, and it took some time to weed those out.”

Hamir said elected officials should not have to summon courage to sit at the table.

“The idea of intimidation should not be part of our electoral process,” she said.

Grieve had a similar experience from “the other side” at dinner one night. He received a call on his land line from someone who held up the phone and said, ‘That’s what I have to put up with every weekend.’

“He said, ‘If you think that this speedway is a good idea, you should go buy a gun and shoot yourself,’” Grieve said. “We have those fringies out there. Everybody’s a little COVID crazy. It’s not understandable, it’s not permissible, but it does happen.”



reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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Monica Parkin, representing the Supporters of Saratoga Motorsports Park, addressed the CVRD board Tuesday. Scott Stanfield photo

Monica Parkin, representing the Supporters of Saratoga Motorsports Park, addressed the CVRD board Tuesday. Scott Stanfield photo

The gallery was full of Saratoga Speedway supporters at Tuesday’s CVRD board meeting. Scott Stanfield photo

The gallery was full of Saratoga Speedway supporters at Tuesday’s CVRD board meeting. Scott Stanfield photo

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