Debate over whether to obtain legal council for a water distribution bylaw caused three councillors to briefly leave a Lantzville commitee of the whole meeting Monday.
Coun. John Coulson asked for the legal opinion on the bylaw and how it is applied to a revised Foothills development proposal.
Councillors Will Geselbracht and Mark Swain both left the meeting moments after Coun. Bob Colclough declared himself in conflict relating to the proposed Foothills development.
Coulson’s motion came before councillors could discuss a similar motion calling for changes to the district’s current water distribution bylaw.
A recent staff report to council indicates that the district’s water distribution bylaw is not specific enough. Although the bylaw is intended to prevent the transfer of water to various properties in specific areas, the report says if a development application doesn’t fall under one of the four points in the bylaw then the application doesn’t need to be regulated.
Coulson told councillors he wants the district to get a legal opinion based on staff’s interpretation of the water distribution bylaw.
“We now have what appears to be a new interpretation of that bylaw … and the problem is there has been two previous subdivision applications that were not allowed to do, I believe, the very thing that the Foothills is proposing to do,” he said.
Geselbracht felt it was similar to a previously defeated motion that he had made earlier this year.
“This is an abomination, what is happening, and I won’t be here to take part in this and I would ask the other councillors who feel the same way to come with me,” Geselbracht told councillors as he left the meeting.
— Nicholas M Pescod (@npescod) November 29, 2016
In the end, councillors voted in favour of obtaining the legal opinion. The three councillors who left the meeting did not vote on the motion, but returned to the meeting for the next topic on the agenda.
Speaking to the News Bulletin afterwards, Coulson said a revised Foothills proposal has been submitted to the district and that it includes transferring water to surrounding properties.
The proposal is not available to the public and the News Bulletin was not able to obtain a copy prior to press time.
Coulson said he doesn’t want to see legal action taken against the district by previously rejected or future developers.
“We have historical precedents in Lantzville where we have disallowed two other developers to do the same thing,” he said. “We won’t get sued necessarily, but you can appreciate the legal conundrum we are in here and potentially get sued by prior developers and current developers.”
Geselbracht said he was surprised by Coulson’s motion to seek legal opinion, adding that it wasn’t on the agenda.
“Bring it up, give us some notice,” he said. “With our new procedural bylaw I think that is only fair.”
Geselbracht said he left the meeting because he felt there was an abuse of process going on.
“We were ambushed with a motion that, in my opinion, Mr. Coulson had brought two weeks before and voted it down,” he said. “I am going to maintain that position and it is going to have to come back before council, at which time I hope it is defeated,” he said.
The matter will be debated again by councillors at a future council meeting.