Lantzville district hall. (NEWS BULLETIN file)

District of Lantzville looking to engage with Foothills developers

Water remains a question mark for development over the long term

The District of Lantzville and a major residential developer are looking into the possibility of creating a new development agreement.

According to a recent staff report to council, Storm Mountain Developments-Lone Tree Properties, the developers behind the Foothills residential project, are looking to “re-engage” the district about creating a new phased development that is linked to an old memorandum of understanding signed between them.

The report, which was released following a request from councillors in October, indicated discussions between the two sides had taken place but stopped due council and staff turnover. It also said that district staff felt that it would be beneficial to work with Lone Tree on creating a new development agreement.

The District of Lantzville and Lone Tree Properties signed a memorandum of understanding in 2014. As part of the agreement, which is not a legally binding document, Lone Tree would dedicate more than 300 hectares of parkland, pay for the construction of a new reservoir, provide approximately $6 million in infrastructure funding as well as property for a public works yard and fire hall.

A clause in the MOU allows Lone Tree to obtain 16 municipal water connections per calendar year, in the event it cannot find enough water for the development. That clause can only be triggered once Lantzville begins receiving water from the City of Nanaimo and would need to be approved by council. Should that happen, Lone Tree would be required to pay any connection fees.

Frank Limshue, the district’s community planner, said while Lone Tree could go ahead and build under the existing plan, a new phased development agreement with smaller lot sizes would provide protection on the investment by ensuring that the Foothills property is not subjected to any changes in zoning made by a current council, future council or a new official community plan during a defined period of time.

“It will protect the developer from something like that happening,” Limshue said. “The reality is, it is very rare that something like that would happen. But it can happen.”

Limshue said Lone Tree is looking to reduce the lot sizes in future Foothills phases with a new phased development, adding that smaller lots make more economic sense in today’s market because they can reduce costs for both the developer and the district.

Lone Tree has enough water for Phase 1, according to Limshue, who said the developers will need to prove to the district that they have enough water for future phases.

Allard Ockeloen, Lone Tree Properties chief executive officer, said his company still views the memorandum of understanding as valid, adding that it was negotiated in good faith. He said Lone Tree’s position is that it’s never actually “disengaged” with district staff and while it would be open to a new phased development agreement in exchange for meeting the conditions set out in the MOU, it doesn’t necessarily want smaller lot sizes.

“What we want is variety, more variety, because I think that is what the community wants. We will always want what the community wants because that is who our clients are,” Ockeloen said. “We have got two-and-a-half acre lot sizes and if that is not appropriate then we may want some flexibility to do something else … We do have an awful lot of single-family zoning and I think probably if there was one thing, one message, we would probably want to expand that into a little bit more multi-family, seniors’ housing, whatever.”

Lone Tree also has enough water to continue working on the Foothills development for the next couple of years according Ockeloen, who said it continues to find more water, but the situation surrounding water for the project long term could change.

“We have much more water than we need for this phase,” he said. “Ten years from now, I don’t know what the status of water on the project within the district will be.”

Ockeloen said the Foothills project is moving along as scheduled with real estate agents gearing up to begin selling phase 1C lots.

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