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Decisions on drag racing deferred

Decisions on drag racing deferred

The Sunshine Coast Drag Racing Association (SCDRA) has been waiting since October 2020 for a response from Sechelt about its request for 2021 race dates at the airport. Following a second deferral of the matter at the Feb. 17 council meeting, any decision has been put off until March 3 at the earliest.
The most recent council meeting saw the award of one of the contracts, what could be an over $3 million enhancement job at the airport, endorsed. With that decision finalized, staff will be meeting with representatives of successful contractor Jakes Construction to draft a preliminary schedule for the work. Once details on project timing are determined, Kirn Dhillon, Sechelt’s director of engineering, said these would be provided to council.
The SCDRA has requested five 2021 event dates, between May 29 and Aug. 8. While disappointed that potential dates for the organization to plan toward have not been approved, SCDRA spokesperson Richard Austin said the group could organize racing events with as little as a “week or two of notice.” Austin said that they are currently working with Vancouver Coastal Health on COVID-19 protocols that must be in place before any events can be planned. In 2020, the SCDRA was able to host four limited entry events that followed COVID-19 protocols.
Based on information currently available, the earliest requested date could be in advance of work starting at the airport. At the council meeting, Councillor Eric Scott floated the idea of providing the SCDRA with “one last run on May 29.”
Councillor Matt McLean proposed a different approach. He suggested that staff work with the contractor and the association to find four dates that would work for both the construction project and racing. Dhillon advised council that he did not recommend that approach, explaining that once a contractor is on-site, it has responsibility for safety measures on the location. Dhillon said allowing the use of a construction site for an alternate and “risky” activity, such as drag racing, would likely pose an unacceptable liability issue for the contractor.
Council voted to defer any decision on 2021 drag racing events until after the pre-construction meeting with the contractor has been held. It also asked its Airport Development Select Committee to liaise with the SCDRA regarding the identification of event dates.
The airport runway is the only Coast location where drag racing can be safely held. Sechelt requires that the association apply annually for its race dates as these require a temporary suspension of some airport operations. As the approvals are processed year by year, there is no guarantee that the SCDRAs requests for airport use will be approved after the upcoming investment in runway improvements is completed.
Racing has been permitted every year since 1999. Austin is hopeful that the SCDRAs occasional use of the runway can continue. He says that the activities held in the past have been community-building events with up to 1,000 attending. In his view, they are an opportunity for local motorsport enthusiasts and those with a more general interest in drag racing to experience the sport without travelling off-Coast.
Connie Jordison

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