Nanaimo city council approved the terms to sell water to Lantzville, despite concerns it’s a poor deal.
Nanaimo city councillors opted to move ahead with a water-sharing agreement in a 5-3 vote Monday, leaving the final decision to ink a contract in the hands of Lantzville politicians.
The 20-year deal would pipe in water to 225 to upper Lantzville homes already on the municipal water system for a $1.3-million connection cost. Fifty new development connections a year would be allowed and another 211 homes on private wells would have the potential to tap into city water in the future. User fees would be on par with the City of Nanaimo.
If the deal is inked, the rural community would be responsible for building new infrastructure, supporting Nanaimo in finding water supply and paying contributions for regional services, including $34,100 annually for the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation.
It’s a “business deal pure and simple” according to Coun. Ted Greves, who points out that Lantzville is going to be supplied water at the same cost the city pays. It’s also nothing new, with Nanaimo already supplying bulk water to the Snuneymuxw First Nation and Extension, he said.
Coun. Diane Brennan was also satisfied with the agreement, calling it measured and a chance for the Harbour City to have an ally when it eventually approaches the B.C. government for an additional water source, while Coun. Diana Johnstone said it was about being good neighbours to a community that shops, recreates and studies in Nanaimo.
Opponents, however, were concerned about city water supporting rural development and questioned if the resource should be pumped outside local boundaries when there’s a forecasted shortage by 2024. At least two politicians called it a bad deal for Nanaimo.
Coun. Bill McKay, who opposed moving ahead with the contract, said he believes the city is jumping the gun with no new water supply or cost estimates on how much it will cost.
“We have been told we won’t have enough, so why would we give it away to another community that wants to develop?” he said.
The City of Nanaimo has been developing a contract since voting to move ahead with a water-sharing agreement last year.
Coun. Bill Bestwick, who was the first to oppose the contract, said while it is a good business deal for Lantzville, it’s not for Nanaimo. He is concerned that the city runs the risk of a water shortage and said he isn’t prepared to sacrifice the resource for an area that could add to urban sprawl and doesn’t contribute taxes to his municipality.
He – and councillors McKay and Jim Kipp – were outvoted by those who called the water a regional issue and the act of good neighbours. Mayor John Ruttan, a resident of Lantzville, did not participate in the decision because of a potential conflict of interest.
“If the council of Lantzville or the good people of Lantzville don’t want it, just send it back and we will forget about it, but I think we are at the point where we need to show the willingness to share. It is as simple as that,” said Coun. Fred Pattje, who was among those who favoured the deal.
Greves said the two municipalities are neighbours and questions why the city would not offer water to someone who needs it and is willing to pay for it. He has “every confidence” the city will get additional water and said connections offered to Lantzville would add up to approximately 1.2 per cent of the city’s total consumption, which he believes isn’t going to be “a big issue for quite a long time.”
The city’s water shortage forecast has also included the provision of water to Lantzville.
The offer is now in the hands of the District of Lantzville, which will be taking time to digest the information, according to Lantzville Mayor Jack de Jong.
Lantzville Coun. Graham Savage has not seen the recent terms, but said he is “certainly interested” in growing water supply and is encouraged Nanaimo has offered an agreement.
“I am going to be looking at whether it’s affordable, how we pay for it and … I think we also have to think about what other options are available to us and what we’ve looked at previously and the potential costs of those and then we will determine whether we want to sign onto the agreement,” he said.