Company dumps Merritt racetrack plan

Combining a roadrace track with a housing development seemed like an oddity when it was proposed for the country music festival grounds in Merritt.

A decade later, the market has proven the idea was a non-starter.

Active Mountain Entertainment Corp., the company that produces the Merritt Mountain Music Festival, has red-flagged its plans for motor racing in the Nicola Valley.

"I can't find investors for that," said Claude Lilievre, who led the music festival for 15 years until it ceased in 2010. The company has scheduled a renewed country music festival next month after skipping 2010.

"I waited long enough and talked long enough about it."

Plans for a 4.2-kilometre track designed and constructed to Formula One standards were unveiled in 2001. Four years later, in concert with B.C. Liberal politicians running for re-election, promoters re-announced the project as part of a made-in-B.C. boom.

But the track never got out of the pits. Also headed to the concept junkyard is a theme park proposed along with the track.

"There were all kinds of things we tried to do - so did General Motors," he said. "Plans die and so did the economy."

Now Lilievre's firm is focused on reviving the music festival, July 7-10, along with the housing development.

The only amenity left from the original plans is a golf course, with an undetermined schedule for construction.

Herb Graham, who represents the area at the TNRD board, called scrapping the race track and theme park "a disappointment."

But he said many were sceptical from the onset, given the cost of the project, while others wondered about putting housing and motor racing in the same vicinity.

"We'd have heard it downtown."

Lilievre said the area that was set aside for a racetrack will now to be dedicated for one-hectare ranchette lots that will start at about $200,000, with water and sewer service from the City of Merritt.

Another 200 condominiums are planned along with 460 city-size lots for the entire development. Property to hold concerts on will continue to be set aside.

Rezoning to allow the ranchette lots is expected to be brought before the board of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District in September. Lilievre said he expects support from planning staff because the development is backed by the City of Merritt, which has applied to include the property inside its boundaries.

Graham said many in the Nicola Valley are hoping the music festival becomes a renewed success.

"It really opened doors for the community. People found out where Merritt was."

© Copyright 2018 Kamloops Daily News