Election 2014: Lantzville candidates target water deal

DISTRICT OF LANTZVILLE – Candidates are divided on how to move ahead with the water agreement.

Two months after Lantzville signed a water agreement with Nanaimo, election candidates are talking about making changes.

Lantzville election candidates are divided on how to move forward on a new water-supply agreement. At least three contenders are interested in talking to Nanaimo about amendments to the deal, while others want to see public consultation, a chance to consider elements of the document, and action.

The 20-year deal was inked last September after more than a year of negotiations between the district and City of Nanaimo. It will see city water pumped to 225 homes in upper Lantzville – a move anticipated to free up connections to the district’s own water system – and would allow for 50 new development hookups each year. Another 211 homes on private wells have the potential to gain access in the future.

But not all candidates are satisfied with the way the agreement stands and would want to see changes if elected, including where the water flows to.

Incumbent candidate Coun. Denise Haime said in an online questionnaire that the agreement as it’s written is “structurally flawed” and needs to be addressed to make it workable for all residents. She’d propose amendments to Nanaimo, as would council contender Doug Parkhurst, who says connections should go to lower, not upper Lantzville where the district can bring development and revitalization.

“We put water into where it should go so Lantzville can fulfill its own vision of how it wants to grow,” he said.

Mayoral candidate Colin Haime would also look to propose amendments to the contract wording. In an e-mail to the News Bulletin, he said he supports the right water solution, one that supplements the needs of all existing residents on wells at an affordable cost, but “the current agreement fails on both of these points.”

His proposed changes would include providing water for “all existing residents on wells” as well as water connections to revitalize the village core and would still respect limitations Nanaimo has put on Lantzville, he said.

According to Nanaimo’s city manager Ted Swabey, the two jurisdictions would have to agree to renegotiate. It’s a move that incumbent mayor Jack de Jong said he’s apprehensive about, pointing out that two supporters of the deal on Nanaimo city council aren’t seeking re-election. He also says this is a “really good deal” for the community, listing the 20-year term with an option to extend the agreement and the ability to stop the agreement as examples.

“The ball is in our court whether we want to continue with this … there’s no obligation even in the agreement, but certainly it’s my intent to move ahead and to make use of that agreement,” he said, adding he plans to lay the pipe if elected.

Other council candidates have different ideas about next steps forward.

Incumbent Coun. Jennifer Millbank said she’d want to see how all the pieces of the agreement fit together, including logistics and cost, as well as see connections freed up in upper Lantzville transferred to the downtown. A lot can be done with 200 connections, she said.

Council candidate Warren Griffey is happy the two municipalities agreed to a water agreement, but believes there’s implications like higher density and taxes and wants to see public consultation.

John Coulson, who is looking for a seat on council, believes it would be a big mistake to start laying pipes in the ground. He questions whether the agreement has been entered into legally, and wants to take a pause to “truly identify the needs, review the solutions, look at the costs, talk to the residents in a more meaningful fashion … and have a referendum.”