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22nd January 2020
Newly adopted policy gives staff increased authority over issuing new water connections

NICHOLAS PESCOD Jan. 22, 2020 5:30 a.m.LOCAL NEWS

The District of Lantzville is tapping into a new water connection policy.

Lantzville councillors, during their regular meeting on Jan. 13, voted 4-1 in favour of adopting the water connection priorities policy, which is effectively replacing a similar policy that had been in existence for nearly 14 years.

Council also passed the first two readings of a proposed subdivision and development works and services bylaw.

When Lantzville triggered the long-standing water agreement with the City of Nanaimo, 286 new water connections became available to the district, which can be used to supply water to planned development or existing homes within the lower pressure zone. The water agreement also allowed 50 new connections per year for existing or proposed development in the upper-pressure zone.

Known as the water supply and connection policy, the old policy was adopted in 2006 and addressed the community’s lack of an adequate water supply by limiting new development to existing lots that were already served with municipal water. Any proposed subdivisions were required to develop their own water supply source. The policy also addressed the new connection clause in the Lantzville-Nanaimo water agreement by giving councillors the authority to allocate “all or a portion” of those new connections to new development, so long as the developer provided community amenities.

The newly adopted policy, however, removes much of the language contained in the previous policy, strips council of its ability to allocate 50 new connections and gives allocation authority to the district’s director of public works. The policy stipulates that when new requests for water connections are received, the district must consider a list of priorities before issuing any connection.

During the Jan. 13 meeting, Kyle Young, the district’s community planner, told councillors their authority was removed due to legal concerns.

“Staff don’t believe that is a correct and lawful process so the new policy leaves it up to the director of public works to allocate those new connections,” he said.

Coun. Will Geselbracht said the old policy was merely a “band-aid” solution because the district was unsure whether it even had enough water at the time and well rehabilitation hadn’t been done. He said Lantzville has rehabbed wells and a signed water supply agreement with Nanaimo that provides a “redundancy” of water to the community.

“The water wars are over,” Geselbracht said.

A key element of the new policy is the priorities list, he added.

“The highlight of that policy is that it still sets out a priority list for who gets water,” he said. “Basically, those whose water is tainted [and] those who do not have enough water, and it breaks it down, so I’m comforted by that in there.”

However, Coun. Ian Savage, who was the only councillor who voted against adopting the policy, expressed concerns about council losing its ability to dole out the 50 new water connections per year. Prior to the water agreement being signed, there were concerns raised by councillors and staff about where the 50 new connections could go and that they might all be used for new development.

“I feel we should be making the decisions, so we can answer to them,” he said.

Lantzville Mayor Mark Swain said while the new connection policy removes language around developers finding and supplying their own water source, those requirements are included the proposed subdivision and development works and services bylaw. He said he feels confident that Lantzville council will have control over what happens with water in the community because of the proposed bylaw and the new water connection policy.

“I do have confidence that council will be involved to a certain degree,” he said. “I think with respect to allocating other connections, I think it is an administrative task and ultimately the director of public works can distribute those connections.”