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Lantzville councillor calls for investigation on colleague over controversial bylaw

A desire to see more fairness and equity prompted Lantzville Coun. Jennifer Millbank to serve a notice of motion to launch an investigation into a colleague’s Christmas tree farm.

The notice, which was served Jan. 14, calls for fellow councillor Brian Dempsey to be removed as Regional District of Nanaimo director while an investigation is launched into a possible breach of the district’s zoning bylaw 60, which prohibits the sale of agricultural products on a residentially zoned property.

Millbank said bylaw enforcement has been a contentious issue for the district and she is concerned that it has been used as a political tool. Bylaw enforcement in Lantzville is ordered by council and executed by the regional district.

“Lots of people have asked me about Mr. Dempsey’s farm and I’m not particularly concerned with what the outcome of an inquiry would be, but residents expect that politicians are subject to the same rules, and I think restoring faith in government and the council starts with looking at our own conduct,” Millbank said.

She expects the investigation, if approved, to be a routine bylaw inquiry and not a firing squad.

“It’s generating quite a bit of heat but my main premise is that I don’t see why it’s controversial to expect municipal politicians to be treated the same as everyone else,” she said.

Urban agriculture has been a hot-button issue in Lantzville for the past several years.

Dempsey, who purchased his two-hectare property in 1986, said the motion came as a surprise.

“I guess I’ll have to wait and see where it all goes,” he said. “I’ve been here doing my thing for a long time and never hid it, have been on council since the beginning and with the improvement district since 1990. I’ll let my record stand for itself.”

Lantzville council will discuss the notice of motion and come to a decision at its next meeting on Jan. 28.

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