Lantzville councillors want a face-to face meeting with Nanaimo councillors to talk water.
On Monday, March 26, Lantzville councillors voted 4-2 in favour of arranging an in-person meeting with Nanaimo city councillors to discuss proposed changes with the Lantzville-Nanaimo water agreement. Councillors also agreed to allow topics of discussion to be submitted in advance for the meeting in order to provide some structure to the proposed meeting. District staff are now tasked with reaching out to Nanaimo city staff to request a meeting.
The neighbouring municipalities signed the $1.3-million water agreement in 2014. Under the terms of the 20-year deal, Nanaimo would provide water to 225 homes located in upper Lantzville and 50 new developments per year would be allowed to receive city water. There is also the potential for an additional 211 connections for residents on private wells for a cost of just under $6,000 apiece.
Lantzville councillors went before Nanaimo council in 2016 requesting a number of amendments to the agreements to the water agreement, such as changing wording to allow all areas of Lantzville to connect to a water supply and replacing the phrase “water system capital costs” to “water service surcharge” in order to reduce concerns about direct capital contribution or liabilities.
However, since 2016, the only discussions that have taken place between the two municipalities have been staff-to-staff meetings. Last year, the city released in-camera information that showed that Nanaimo councillors voted unanimously in May 2016 to accept the District of Lantzville’s request to renegotiate the deal.
Coun. Denise Haime, who made the motion calling for a face-to-face meeting with Nanaimo city councillors, said a recent article in the News Bulletin indicates that city councillors are open to meeting and that the ball is clearly in Lantzville’s court. She said it is time for Lantzville councillors to show some leadership and pursue their requested amendments and move forward.
“There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be willing to go and talk … If we back out now that sends a really big message to them about what our intent really is and what our agenda is in this community and who we are really looking to serve,” she said.
Coun. Dot Neary voted against the motion, saying meeting of any kind with Nanaimo councillors was “politically risky” and that the current climate was not very “conducive” to hold discussions. She said any meeting that took place between councillors from both municipalities should have an agenda, or at the very least, some kind of structure.
Coun. Bob Colclough said while he would be happy to meet with Nanaimo politicians, he couldn’t support the motion because the meeting must be structured, organized and have an agenda.
“I don’t think it makes sense to just sit down and talk. I think we need to be more organized,” he said.
Coun. Mark Swain, who voted in favour of the motion, was also curious about how the structure of such a meeting would work. He said he would be more supportive of having staff meet face-to-face to discuss issues and report back to their respective councils, later adding that he would prefer an open meeting, not an in-camera meeting because the amendments Lantzville requested were made in an open Nanaimo council meeting.
“Why would we all the sudden go in camera to discuss these amendments?” he said. “They know what we want.”
During the discussion councillors agreed to allow topics to be submitted prior to any meeting taking place as a way to alleviate concerns about structure. Haime said politicians from the two municipalities used to meet informally years ago. She said councillors shouldn’t be afraid to meet with their counterparts to the south and failing to do so would show a lack of leadership and conviction to the residents of Lantzville.
“What have we got to be afraid of on our side? … Where is the conviction behind the changes we are recommending?” she asked.