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Lantzville and Nanaimo councils meet to discuss water agreement

NANAIMO – Lantzville asks for public venue, while Nanaimo wants discussions to take place behind closed doors.

Nanaimo city council is prepared to hear Lantzville’s proposed changes to a joint water agreement in public, but wants negotiations to be behind closed doors.

Lantzville mayor Colin Haime, however, has no concerns about discussing the agreement or negotiating amendments openly, saying that there are no trade secrets and the agreement itself is public.

“From that standpoint, I don’t understand what would be gained by keeping the residents from the discussions,” he said, in the wake of Nanaimo city councillors’ concerns and statements about Lantzville’s desire to send a delegation to an open meeting to discuss proposed amendments to the water agreement.

Representatives from the District of Lantzville will speak at a city council meeting Monday (June 20) to discuss water agreement amendments. The 20-year supply deal, signed in 2014, allows for water to be piped to 225 homes in upper Lantzville, as well as 50 new development hookups each year and the potential for another 211 homes on private wells to connect in the future. A formal agreement was offered by the City of Nanaimo after seven years of water-sharing talks with the rural municipality and with restrictions on service until the city could deal with its own potential future water shortages.

But Lantzville staff members, which reviewed the agreement, said in a report the document is  “unnecessarily restrictive,” did not provide clarity about when contributions to Nanaimo for infrastructure would cause Lantzville to consult the public and the lack of building community relations with the Snaw-Naw-As First Nations. Among proposed amendments are wording changes to allow all areas of the community to connect to water provided by Nanaimo, not just new developments and upper Lantzville and which would allow for the ability of the neighbouring First Nation to potentially hook up to Lantzville’s water system.

Lantzville council wrote to Nanaimo to ask to appear as a delegation in a public meeting in correspondence not yet released by the city, although discussed openly Monday.

“Do we have an agreement that sat for a year-plus before it was introduced to their council of the day and now we’ve received, two or three months ago, a request for amendments to something that was there on the books in 2014 and now without the benefit of having an opportunity to discuss their requests ... their amendments, they wish just to bring it public?” asked Coun. Bill Bestwick. “How often do we go and stand in front of the Regional District of Nanaimo, Lantzville, or any other government agency coming in front of us to discuss items that we agreed to discuss with them in a place where I think it should be and proper?”

Coun. Jerry Hong asked if Lantzville could divulge information that could harm “them or us” and said he’s worried about what it wants to present to council and to open for everybody to see, especially if there hasn’t been a chance to deliberate.

“For us to be talking about this in the open, until it’s signed, sealed and delivered in regards to what they want in their amendments, it seems strange that they would come before a public meeting.”

Haime said what’s even stranger is that individuals would want to take things into a private venue on something that is so important. He said he has no concern discussing or negotiating the proposed amendments in public and said the goal Monday will be to present additional information to the city and public on the reasons for the requested amendments, what it will achieve and the benefits to both Lantzville and Nanaimo.

There has been a variety of comments made publicly in meetings, on social media and through e-mail that he said possibly misinterpret the goals and objectives of the Lantzville community as it comes to development, but also with regard to the goals and objectives of amendments to the water agreement.

He also said the current Lantzville council has made a commitment to the public to do as much business as possible in a public venue.