A Lantzville councillor is once again questioning the wording of the water agreement.
Coun. John Coulson continued to raise concerns about the definition of upper and lower Lantzville relating to the Lantzville-Nanaimo water agreement following a presentation on the district’s draft water master plan during a committee of the whole meeting on Monday (Sept. 18).
“This water master plan is all predicated on the decision from staff that the definition of upper lower Lantzville in relation to the water agreement was stating it was zones, upper and lower pressure zones; to me that is incorrect,” he said.
Earlier this year, Coulson had made a motion seeking a report from district staff clarifying the definition of upper and lower Lantzville, but was defeated.
Fred Spears, the district’s director of public works, informed Coulson that references to upper and lower Lantzville have always referred to pressure zones and not geographical boundaries.
“The interpretation is the same from staff point of view in both Nanaimo and Lantzville. I have confirmed and I have in it writing that Nanaimo looks at the agreement as per upper pressure zone and lower pressure zone, the same way staff look at it here,” he said.
Unlike the accepted geographical definition of upper and lower Lantzville, the upper and lower pressure zones are not divided by Highway 19. Instead, the upper pressure zone boundary line crosses into lower Lantzville near the Nanaimo border.
Coulson told the News Bulletin he raised the issue again because of the potential “implications” of the design of the district’s water distribution system and the implications on the “contractual” validity of the Lantzville-Nanaimo water agreement. He said the change in interpretation is an intentional effort to provide water to a development located south of Highway 19, but falls within the upper pressure zone.
“It’s been behind-the-scenes effort to ensure Nanaimo water for the Ryeland development,” Coulson said. “How do I get there? Information from the development application and a few tweets I made clearly showing … they are relying on Nanaimo water.”
Coulson also points to a 2013 legal opinion, which does not make any reference to upper or lower pressure zones, as evidence that the interpretation of upper and lower Lantzville has changed.
“Councillors and the mayor of the day were cleared from conflict of interest because they lived in lower Lantzville,” Coulson said. “But, two of them live in the upper pressure zone. If it has always been understood to be the upper pressure zone then why did we spend taxpayer money getting a legal opinion based on false information, creating a false conflict of interest position and release it to the public?”
Bill Sims, City of Nanaimo manager of water resources, said city staff consider upper and lower Lantzville to be defined as the upper and lower pressure zones.
Former Lantzville mayor Jack de Jong, who was involved with the water agreement and was mayor when it was signed, said politicians from both Nanaimo and Lantzville dealt with the agreement strictly from a “political” level. He said politicians didn’t discuss the technical aspects of the agreement and instead left that up to staff to figure out because that’s their job.
“We are trying to get them [Nanaimo] to agree to give us some water. The technical part of that is floating way on the backside. You can’t even lay a pipe yet. You don’t even know where it’s going to come from. You’re not going to invest any time or effort into the component because you don’t know if they are going to say yes,” de Jong said. “So, when we made the agreement we didn’t even discuss that at the council-to-council meeting.”