Private well users in upper Lantzville are getting an unfair deal in the proposed water agreement with Nanaimo, say concerned citizens.
The District of Lantzville is reviewing the draft terms of a new water deal with the City of Nanaimo, which officials say provides a solution to limited water supply issues and health concerns.
But the conditions don’t wash with residents Carl and Linda Westby, who are concerned about hook-up costs to private well users as well as an increase to Lantzville’s contribution to Nanaimo’s Port Theatre and Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation.
The duo have been distributing a pamphlet to the upper Lantzville community, claiming some terms appear unfair and deceiving to taxpayers. They want to see changes before Lantzville signs off on the agreement.
According to the district’s summary of negotiations, Nanaimo is offering to pipe in water to 225 upper Lantzville homes already on the municipal water system. The move will cost users nothing because it will free up connections the district can then charge to other residents, according to Mayor Jack de Jong. But it will cost the district approximately $1.3 million to connect homes.
The terms also limit new development connections to 50 a year and allow for the potential of another 211 homes on private wells to hook up in the future.
Unlike existing water system users, residents with private wells will be on the hook for infrastructure costs and connection fees because they are farther away from the municipal water system.
All taxpayers will have to start paying new contributions to the Port Theatre and Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation as soon as the two municipalities start sharing water.
Linday Westby said the terms clearly state there are no guarantees when private well users in upper Lantzville will access city water – if at all.
So she questions why everyone should have to pay to supply Nanaimo water to developers and current municipal water system users. Residents with private wells should share costs if and when water is supplied to them, she said.
She said it also seems deceiving to call the new money contributions, which ensures everyone pays, when the dollars are more likely a water tax.
“A tax has to benefit everyone … like school [taxes for example],” Westby said. “Even if you don’t currently go to school, you used to, your family does, or you are paying for school so that you have [professionals like] dentists. But these taxes are being charged to residents who will not see any benefits.”
As part of the new deal with Nanaimo, Lantzville taxpayers will have to pay an additional $6,230 annually for the Port Theatre, a total $15,230 cost. They will also have to pay an estimated $34,100 for NEDC.
The district says the items are the second most significant component of water negotiations but are not “explicitly stated in the [memorandum of understanding].
De Jong says people can argue contributions for the Port Theatre and NEDC, but the organizations benefit everyone and contributions would likely have been made regardless of a water deal with Nanaimo.
Westby is concerned why the extra taxes would not have been laid out in an MOU if they were an expectation and significant term of agreement.
“I don’t know why [the expected contributions] wouldn’t be in black and white in the agreement because in a courtroom the only thing that matters is what’s in black and white,” she said. “I am shocked to think a legal document at that level … would not have those things in writing. It just doesn’t add up.”
Lantzville residents will have an opportunity to weigh in on the terms of the proposed water agreement this September. While the City of Nanaimo approved the terms of the deal last May, the final nod is up to Lantzville council. Engineers are currently working on a proposal to pipe water into the rural community, including cost estimates. The plans will be revealed during an open house this fall.