After years of debate, Nanaimo water will flow into Lantzville.
On Monday, June 11, Lantzville councillors voted 4-3 in favour of executing a 20-year water supply agreement with the City of Nanaimo on June 18. Councillors had previously discussed executing the agreement on May 7, but opted to continue discussions after the meeting went into the late hours.
Although the two municipalities had reached a written agreement on water supply, a clause in the agreement required Lantzville to vote on whether or not to accept Nanaimo’s water. Prior to Monday’s decision, Lantzville had already spent $677,000 on the construction of a water pipeline, according to district staff.
Councillors also voted in favour requiring anyone seeking to subdivide a property larger than two hectares to find their own water supply and receive council approval prior to subdivision during the meeting.
Under the terms of the agreement, Nanaimo will supply water to 225 homes already on municipal water in upper Lantzville for $1.33 million or roughly $5,912 per household, while an additional 50 connections can be made each year that are strictly for new development. Furthermore, 211 connections can be made to upper Lantzville residents on private wells for a cost of $5,912, provided that those connections are made within the first five years of the deal. Connections made afterward will be subject to Nanaimo’s development cost charge rate. Lantzville is required to pay Nanaimo within 30 days of the execution date.
Lantzville will also provide “reasonable” support to Nanaimo to secure additional water supply according to the agreement, which also states that Lantzville cannot supply Nanaimo water to lower Lantzville unless Nanaimo secures additional water supplies and informs Lantzville.
BREAKING: Lantzville councillors have voted 4-3 in favour of triggering the Nanaimo-Lantzville water agreement, which was first signed in 2014.
— Nicholas M Pescod (@npescod) June 12, 2018
The decision to finally enact the water agreement comes nearly four years after it was first signed off by Lantzville councillors in September 2014, following months of discussions. Prior to the agreement, the two neighbouring municipalities had signed a memorandum of understanding in 2005, which came after Lantzville formally requested water from its southern neighbour. Many of the terms in the now-executed water agreement stem from the 2005 MOU, including the allocation of water to upper Lantzville.
Questions and concerns about the water supply agreement have loomed even before September 2014, including calls from some Lantzville councillors that a public referendum should be held to determine whether the agreement should be executed.
Days after the agreement was signed, Coun. Denise Haime announced that an independent legal opinion, which she paid for out of pocket, concluded that councillors would be personally liable for signing the agreement without going to a referendum. Then, in 2016, Lantzville councillors voted in favour of requesting a number of amendments to the water agreement, including changing the wording to allow all areas of Lantzville to connect to a water supply provided by Nanaimo. Those requests have gone unanswered by Nanaimo councillors, who feel Lantzville has been sending mixed signals over the agreement. Questions have also been raised over the agreement’s definitions of upper and lower Lantzville, Nanaimo’s long-term water supply and a potential conflict of interest involving Lantzville councillors.
Monday’s meeting was packed with residents, many of whom spoke in favour and against the water agreement during the public participation period of the meeting. Coun. Mark Swain told councillors that his concern about water going to developers has been alleviated as a result of the vote to require developers to find their own water source for large properties, explaining that it will “block developers” from accessing water unless council resolves otherwise. He said water is a priority item and the agreement will improve the community overall.
“I think spending money on this Nanaimo water agreement is going to serve the betterment of our community,” Swain said.
Coun. Denise Haime said the agreement is a bad deal at this time, adding that there are way too many “loose ends” that need to be tied up. She said council never really considered other alternatives to the water agreement and that the deal will really only benefit developers.
“I believe this water agreement short-changes the residents and I will be honest, in my opinion, I will be shocked if in five years, there is water to the Winds,” Haime said.
Mayor Colin Haime said multiple lawyers have examined the agreement and determined that the “safest route” is to proceed with a referendum, adding that he has “serious concerns” about the legality of the agreement.
Speaking to the News Bulletin, Coun. Bob Colclough said Monday’s decision is a turning point for the community, adding that it is nice to finally move forward on the issue.
“I think it is exciting step forward for the community. It opens up the door the community to realize the vision of the OCP,” he said, adding that council has beefed up policies and bylaws to make it clear to big developers that the water freed up from the interconnection with Nanaimo is intended for existing residents.
Councillors Haime, Coulson and Mayor Haime voted against triggering the deal.