Lantzville councillors voted against getting legal opinion for its water distribution bylaw during a meeting Monday.
The legal opinion would have looked at how the bylaw would apply to a pending subdivision application referred to as a “revised” Foothills development.
The district’s water distribution bylaw outlines how much water new subdivision lots can receive in the event that connection to a municipal water system is unavailable.
One section of the bylaw says parcels of land that fall within the comprehensive development area – land in Upper Lantzville and the village core – may receive water from beyond the borders of the area.
The original intention of the bylaw was to prevent the transfer of water to various properties in specific areas. However, a recent staff report to council indicates that the bylaw is not specific enough despite its intentions.
A new Foothills proposal has been submitted to the district, which includes transferring water to surrounding properties, according to some members of council.
The proposal is not available to the public.
Coun. John Coulson, who made the motion, told councillors he was concerned that given the recent interpretation, the bylaw isn’t clear and could open the district up to future legal action from developers who were turned down for violating the bylaw.
“We now have another case in front of us where the bylaw has been interpreted differently. The same bylaw now being interpreted differently,” Coulson said. “That now creates a risk. What I want to know is what is our risk as a result of that, or what can or do we have to do to mitigate that risk.”
Coun. Denise Haime said there have been multiple interpretations of the bylaw by current and former district CAOs, adding that the bylaw’s aim is to prevent developers to unfairly take advantage of water.
However, Coun. Dot Neary said councillors need to trust district staff, adding that the motion should not be approved.
“This motion, fundamentally, interferes with that system. It actually subverts the system. It inserts council into a decision-making process over a regulation that it has put into place,” she said.
Lantzville councillors voted 3-3 on the motion, resulting in it being defeated. Councillors Neary, Will Geselbracht and Mark Swain voted against the motion. Coun. Bob Colclough declared a conflict and left the room before the discussion.